imagine if these cultures had crops like Quinoa.
Certainly would be very good especially in the cold, mountainous regions and the Far Northwest [Alaska/Yukon/northern BC], yes, although their own agricultural package cobbled together does well enough in most places. Unfortunately, quinoa has a real challenge spreading that far north--the jungles of Central America. It's plausible quinoa could spread by sea trade to Mexico (like potatoes did within a few years after the Spanish first arrived in the Andes), but then it's hit a genetic bottleneck and what does well in the highlands of Western Mexico aren't likely to do well in the trade ports further north in the Colorado Delta and Southern California.

OTL, quinoa is grown throughout the PNW but wildly different varieties are used in the western slopes of the WA Cascades, Eastern WA, and the Snake River Plain.
I'm just starting this out and I gotta say-- this is such a strong start. I'm so excited to keep reading this TL and see where it goes. The cultivation of sweetvetch of all things is super neat.
Thank you so much. Yes, sweetvetch is cultivated, but more of a vegetable and animal feed TTL instead of a staple crop like one of this TL's influences, Lands of Ice and Mice.
Chapter 77-A Memory of Stone
"A Memory of Stone"

The great platform mound called Stone Hill (a calque of one of its native name Hothai Kawulk) at the Hohokam city of Am Kukui [1] represents perhaps the finest singular achievement of Oasisamerica as a massive investment of resources and manpower. Built in two bursts of construction during the 1180s and 1250s, Stone Hill was among the highest and largest platform mounds in North America at 17.3 meters high, and the only one that mixed stone and earthen construction.

Four palaces stood atop the first tier of Stone Hill, one facing each direction. During solstices and equinoxes, the sun would align with particular rooms in each house with a Their decoration and actual use varied depending on the direction. The Southwest and Southeast Palaces served as the primary residences for the elite, while the Northeast Palace appears to have been mostly used for conducting ceremonies and hosting feasts. Around a hundred people are estimated to have lived on Stone Hill at any given time, consisting of the rulers of the city and their households.

Actual use varied depending on the direction as well [1]. For instance, because the direction northwest connotated death and rebirth among the Hohokam, the priestly council used the Northwest Palace as a charnel house and interred the cremated dead in symbolic urns alongside rich grave offerings that included much turquoise jewelry. The Northwest Palace appears to have been used only for outsiders, rather than members of the priestly council. Presumably, wealthy citizens of Am Kukui and elsewhere paid much for the prestige of having their remains kept here.

Atop Am Kukui stood a smaller shrine that served as the centerpiece of the pyramid. This building functioned for ceremonial purposes, as it was where the priests publically prayed, prophecised, and addressed their fellow elite. It functioned as a meeting hall as well, where the high priests publically invited rulers of nearby villages. These meetings were at once both sacred and secular, as the priests used ritual and prayer to determine allotments of irrigation water. The rulers of the small farming villages likely found it hard to protest given the pomp of the ceremonies associated with water rights.

The smaller shrine also contained a shaft to the core of the mound. Within this shaft, accessed by a narrow staircase, within this shaft sat many urns and grave offerings, inlaid in various niches. These appear to be the remains of the priestly council itself, for they are fewer in number and incredibly well provisioned with turquoise, gold, ivory, and other expensive substances. At the heart of Stone Hill, this chamber symbolised the connection of the rulers with their ancestors, the very ancestors who built the irrigation networks.

Am Kukui's rulers established themselves as supreme through their construction and maintenance of this mound. In Hohokam culture, these mounds served as monuments to their ancestors who lay buried in the center of it. As Am Kukui constructed the tallest and most grand of all mounds, this symbolised the city's prestige as the most powerful and important in the world.

In addition to maintaining the loyalty of nearby villages and granting the legitimacy to distribute water, the monument served a second purpose--intimidation of rivals. For Am Kukui's rulers, this was Wainom Kehk, an older Hohokam city also at the head of an irrigation network. Wainom Kehk hosted a very large platform mound at around 11 meters high, taller than the pre-1180 mound at Stone Hill. Undoubtedly the rulers of Am Kukui wished to upstage Wainhom Kehk's achievement and gain sway among the nomads nearby the city.

The extremely large mound came first, around 1180, built by the city's elites as a reminder of Am Kukui's ironclad control over water. It was constructed during the off-season using the labour of thousands of individuals, built around a small, older mound that developed over the centuries. Nearby villages contributed to the construction out of a desire for additional water access and prestige goods. After several years of construction, the mound was completed, the palisades raised, and the pueblos atop erected. It stood 135 meters at each side and nearly 13 meters tall, ranking among the tallest and largest structures north of Mesoamerica.

The second tier appears to have been constructed around 1250 following significant internal conflict in the city--it represents a new elite solidifying their hold over power in a tumultuous era. For this, they constructed the truly unique stone pyramid that gave Stone Hill its name. Using a mixture of unfired mudbricks and fired masonry interspersed with wooden supports, they cobbled these bricks together and produced a distinct and colourful pyramid that stood 4.3 meters tall and 45 meters on either side.

Atop this second tier, they constructed a single tall pueblo crowning the site, known as the Great House Atop Stone Hill. This 15-room building around 1/3 the size of the other palaces was largely used for sacred purposes and included entrances to the burial vaults within the mounds. A meeting room in this building was used as both a dance house and a place to conduct negotiations with subordinate village leaders on the distribution of water and goods. It also included well as an astronomical observatory which had windows aligned to a rock formation northeast of Am Kukui--during the solstices, the sun aligned perfectly with this formation, giving the priests at Stone Hill access to a calendar they used to coordinate planting efforts and track festivals and rituals.

The builders of Stone Hill clearly noted problems with how heavy this second tier was. Much of the interior consisted of wood instead of masonry that supported the building. Beneath the second tier, the builders excavated new shafts in the first tier, placing deep wood and masonry pilings with them so as to further reinforce the structure. This mitigated issues with sagging, caving mounds, an issue dealt with across all mound-building cultures.

Stone Hill in its complete form remained in use for not even thirty years thanks to the turmoil of the late 13th century. Beset by drought and epidemic, the so-called "Second Dynasty of Am Kukui" collapsed due to internal rebellion. The people destroyed the palisade and burnt all five palaces on Stone Hill, smashing and looting the graves of all but a few well-hidden urns. Even the chamber at the center fell victim to grave-robbing in this tumultuous time, as the people destroyed this powerful symbol to their former oppressors.

The sacking of Stone Hill lays within the context of anti-elite populism that swept Oasisamerica in the late 13th century. Thanks to the Great Drought, revolt broke out in Am Kukui and surrounding villages. As recorded in ethnohistorical records of the Ohotham, the ruling class was condemned for their greed and oppression that caused the land to suffer such a major drought. They were killed or driven out by their own people and the palaces atop Stone Hill burnt while the palisade was dismantled.

For around sixty years, Stone Hill lay abandoned. There is no sign of burials and few signs of activity on the monument. It may have sporadically been climbed by the residents, but otherwise it remained an abandoned symbol of the past the residents of Am Kukui openly rejected. Not coincidentally, this period marks the nadir of Am Kukui's population and economic output as many residents and those in surrounding areas moved elsewhere, leaving behind a largely empty city.

Around the mid-14th century, new groups of people moved into Am Kukui and rebuilt the palaces atop Stone Hill, yet their context changed. The people widened the staircases, symbolising that all righteous, hard-working people might ascend Stone Hill, not just a few chosen lineages. The palisade was never rebuilt, symbolic of the building being open to all. Public meetings and rituals were once again held on Stone Hill, often crowded with the townsfolk of Am Kukui and nearby villages who sought to influence the proceedings and contribute their voice to the arguments.

Few burials occurred at Stone Hill from this era onwards, and what burials did occur were those whose clans held ancient links to the place. It seems burial within the buildings or mound no longer carried the prestige it did in previous years. One theory holds the residents of Am Kukui negatively associated the burial places with their cruel former rulers, and desisted from interring their dead in that place.

Maintenance on the palaces at Stone Hill ceased around the early 16th century, the product of severe local drought, the arrival of new epidemics, and local collapse in agricultural productivity. It appears that in this era, many newcomers (likely refugees from the turmoil of the era) arrived in the city who disdained the older traditions. The second tier of the mound partially crumbled by this time due to subsidence, spilling its bricks over the remainder of the building--this granted it the name "Stone Hill" However, its history remained well-known and vividly described in ancestral stories of the local Ohotham people, descendents of the Hohokam.

By this era, Mesoamericans and North Fusanians likely knew of Stone Hill, albeit faintly. Purepecha lore speaks of a town far to the north centered around a great hill of houses while 16th century Namal account of Fusanian traveler T'ashatlinhl Qwinishtis describes him as passing "not to the land of the great mound but to the sea" in his journey home from Mesoamerica. The latter account remains disputed, as historians often follow a classic description of T'ashatlinhl as a "seasoned traveler yet unreliable writer, a Marco Polo of the New World," yet with Am Kukui's continuing prestige it seems possible for even those as far away as Wayam or Kanemakh to have heard of its most grand shrine.

The later explorers of this land, Spanish conquistadors and Chinese merchants, found Stone Hill equally tantalising. Each colonial power independently concluded the locals lived in the shadow of a once grand empire, and Am Kukui stood as its former capital. In the 18th and 19th century, historians and scholars frequently claimed Am Kukui and the entirety of Hohokam civilisation represented Aztlan, the mythical Nahua land. Am Kukui itself was the capital, and the abandonment of the site in the 13th century corresponded to the mass migration of Nahuatl-speakers south to Mesoamerica. The advent of modern archaeology by the end of the 19th century thoroughly disproved this theory, although it still finds favour among fringe groups into the present.

The architecture of Stone Hill remains a prominent symbol of indigenous Oasisamerica, as much a symbol of its native culture as the Pyramids are to Egypt or Great Wall is to China. It remains a popular tourist attraction, although damage to the site has ensured climbing remains strictly forbidden for decades. Overlooking the Old Town of the city of Ancugui [3], Stone Hill serves as a perpetual reminder of the people who came before the present inhabitants and the sheer dedication they held toward making their mark on the land.


A simple diagram and description of the monument

Author's notes
This is a shorter entry that expands on ideas I couldn't fit into my previous entry regarding Stone Hill, an ATL monument at the site of the OTL Pueblo Grande ruins in Phoenix, AZ. There are indeed several large mound complexes at Pueblo Grande, among the largest in the Southwest, which were likely used as a prestige symbol by the elite of the local communities. The main difference from OTL is that in A Horn of Bronze, the wealthier Hohokam civilisation with more domesticated animals and population is able to further expand their platform mounds which later results in Am Kukui's building this monstrous construction to outdo all of them.

The stuff past 1300 and especially 1500 is subject to change at any time, given how poorly I've mapped things out that far.

I created that image myself! I thought a simple structure like this would be easiest to draw using the very limited skills that I have compared to other things I'd one day like to post images of such as layouts of various cities described in A Horn of Bronze.

[1] - Am Kukui is Pueblo Grande, nowadays located in Phoenix, AZ.
[2] - Directional symbolism is very common and important in all cultures of Oasisamerica, but varies on culture.
[3] - More properly Ancugüi in Spanish orthography, but it would be commonly spelled like this in other languages. Please note this does not mean *Arizona remains Spanish into the present day, I haven't really planned out much past the 16th century.
I know the aztecs used amaranth alot in their diet. Could it be possible to for the Fusanians to get it? if so how could it benefit them.
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I know the aztecs used amaranth alot in their diet. Could it be possible to for the Fusanians to get it? if so how could it benefit them.
Fusanians focus on aquaculture, therefore their preferred amaranth species is what I term water amaranth (Amaranthus aquaticus), an ATL hybrid of Amaranthus tuberculatus and Amaranthus hybridus. It prefers the marshy habitat of the former while producing fewer, larger seeds like the latter. Because it isn't as productive or culturally important as the domesticated Sagittaria (omodaka/wapato) species, it's not AS important to their diet, but it's still commonly grown because the seeds are easier to store longer (being cereals), as a vegetable, or as animal feed. Usually it's pounded into flatbreads (sometimes mixed with acorn flour). Its wild land-dwelling ancestor A. hybridus would be frequently foraged as well, although rarely deliberately grown.

A. hybridus appears to be related to a lot of amaranth species and was used throughout the West Coast OTL, so I assumed a fertile (and useful) hybrid with one of the wetland amaranth species is feasible and would be of interest.
Chapter 78-Summoners of the Rain
"Summoners of the Rain"

Outside cultures took advantage of the drought. Nomadic bands of Patayans in the west abandoned their villages at the fringes of their culture and pushed eastward into the mountains and canyons inhabited by Southern Puebloan peoples resulting in great warfare. In many places they established themselves as the new settled inhabitants, absorbing or enslaving the previous residents in a disruption of local cultures.

The nomads in general turned aggressive and hostile. For the Hohokam, bands of related peoples like the Ohotham [1] as well as Haiyic-speaking nomads descended from all directions in search of food and fertile fields. Their numbers were bolstered by starving, angered peasants who turned against the elite of the cities, aiding them in their banditry. The nomads plundered much wealth and raised themselves up as rulers of communities they devastated thanks to their power, yet often fell from power within a generation.

Epidemics of mumps, chickenpox, and whooping cough spreading from the east arrived in Oasisamerica from 1225 - 1245, while a weakened form of seal flu came from Fusania around 1245. As elsewhere in the Americas, introduction of these novel diseases caused chaos, particularly in the crowded confines of the pueblos. The cultures of the region lacked the concept of managing the epidemic, ensuring a chaotic response that exacerbated the casualties. Nomadic populations suffered worse than those in the pueblos. Without stable agricultural surplus to fall back on, malnutrition gripped these people leading to outbreaks of other illnesses. These communities scattered apart, disrupting the trade networks.

The death toll from the epidemic stood around 5-10% of the total population, with most deaths caused by associated famine, yet the social response to the plagues proved far more destructive, bringing renewed warfare and social upheaval. Wars ravaged the land, population migrations ensued, and violent revolt occurred as the collapse of trade prevented leaders from showing off their prestige and at times, citizens from feeding themselves.

With the collapse of trade networks, the control exerted by the large cities like Ts'edehege over distant villages ceased. This destroyed the networks that brought these cities many goods from animal pelts to metals to turquoise, impoverishing their elites. The elite impoverishment resulted on their redistribution efforts being spent at home rather than elsewhere, further shrinking the spheres of influence of these cities. With their prestige damaged, the social fabric that held these cities together came undone.

Drought, disease, and depopulation combined to produce an effect that favoured depopulation and migration. Merchants and other community elites left first, joining relatives in places elsewhere be it nomadic villages or settled towns. Subsequently, their distant relatives, kinsmen, and friends followed them due to the social benefits of having close kin around. The remaining community usually either followed these former elites or died off, destroyed by nomadic raiders or epidemic.

In the Southern Puebloan realm, smaller villages fell abandoned, aggregating into larger settlements such as Ashekyuhla or the rapidly growing community of Chapbahluwalaawa [2]. Nomads became ever more closely associated with these settlements, supplying them a consistent source of food. Cities like these supplanted many of the great settlements of the previous centuries, likely because of their ability to draw in the commerce from many different regions and redistribute as needed. Similarly, they replaced many of the scattered villages that were once formerly common in the region.

As Mesoamerica weathered these changes and continued to thrive and prosper, its wealth spilled over to even this furthest fringe. As Paquime's priestly council maintained their status, the city remained functioning, if weakened. Notably, the public works of Paquime and surrounding communities in the late 13th century focus almost entirely on drought mitigation, with construction of wells and even a large aqueduct several kilometers long. The largest wells housed temples to the rain god Tlaloc, where priests sacrificed turkeys and turtles so the water might continue to flow and bless the city.

Generally, society turned against the tight hierarchies of the Classic Era in this period. For instance, among the Hohokam, the priestly elite and their wealthy lackeys found themselves despised by commoners on account of their hoarding of wealth and secretive meetings atop their mounds. Civil conflict made the maintenance of canals difficult and in some cases uprisings burned down some of the towns. Am Kukui suffered this fate in 1285, as an uprising from subordinate villages burned the city along with the buildings on Stone Hill.

Facing invasion from mountain and desert dwellers, the Hohokam people looked toward these outsiders for inspiration as to the apparent success of their society and emulated their lack of hierarchy. They became increasingly democratic and acephalous, as decisions once ruled on by the wealthy priests instead were ruled on by the communities involved. The wealthy men and priests existed only as mediators in this new system whose rulings were freely disregarded if deemed injust by the community.

The upheaval in this era led to a variety of new religious and social movements which took on an anti-elitist, restorationist tone as societies sought to reclaim the simpler life that came before them. The most notable of these is the kachina cult, a set of ceremonies and customs centered around humans donning sacred masks to become spirit messengers termed kachina that traced its ultimate origin to customs established at Piasihlito and nearby villages in the 11th century, including a masked warrior society and new ceremonies for the deceased. Likely this originated as a response to the rapid growth of population in the region, and similar elements find root among other mountainous societies in the Southern Puebloan region.

As Piasihlito and its region declined from drought in the mid-12th century, practicioners dispersed toward Paquime where they gained unusual prestige within the city and incorporated their rituals into the general religions of that city. Here the kachinas became associated with local variants of Mesoamerican deities like the feathered serpent and especially the rain god Tlaloc. People began viewing the kachina spirits as both intermediaries to the spirit realm and those who possessed the power of summoning rain.

At Paquime, the proto-kachina religion assimilated influences from the city's religious cults, including those venerating Tlaloc and the feathered serpent [3] and rituals related to sprinkling pollen on dancers much as Mesoamericans drew blood. Because Paquime served as a center of trade, concepts from all about became incorporated into the emerging cult, including for instance a kachina symbolising maize contains aspects of Quaoar, a maize god in most of Oasisamerica. It became common for followers of the kachina religion to learn sacred knowledge and rituals from travelers, gaining it an association with the merchant community. These merchants spread kachina knowledge (often for a fee) in villages they visited, resulting in the spread of the kachina cult across Oasisamerica at the end of the 13th century.

Kachina religion gained its success from its public participation and meritocracy. As people increasingly respected only their family elders, kachina religion forced them to participate with other clans so the kachina might gain maximum effectiveness in their appeals to the divine. Yet because each individual directly offered a prayer to the gods while they were a kachina, it allowed even the poorest man to gain status in society. As a result, Oasisamerican cultures grew increasingly egalitarian, holding goods in common and discouraging ostentatious displays of wealth.

In its emerging classical form, kachina religious spread mostly among the Central and Southern Puebloans and even stretched into the small farming communities at the eastern edge of the Plains east of Pachisepa [4]. Among other groups like the Hohokam or cultures of Chichimeca, kachina iconography remained rarer as they only incorporated a few practices from the kachina religion. Aspects of kachina were progressively adapted by societies and evolved on their own over time--many kachina found in later times were not present in the late 13th century, kivas used for rituals were built differently, and likely the dances themselves differed.

While Paquime never fully adopted the kachina religion thanks to its diversity of cultural influences, it did become viewed as a "holy city" and pilgrimage site for those initiated as kachina dancers. In villages and pueblos across the region, mythologised accounts of the origins of the kachina cult describe what appear to be traders and merchants from the south, while other stories tell of travelers meeting kachinas in a great and wealthy city. These accounts clearly describe Paquime, and all manner of stories describe travel to this wealthy center, pilgrimages that kept Paquime wealthy and powerful.

For more northerly societies, not just drought afflicted them, but an arising cold as well. In 1257, a catastrophic eruption of the volcano Samalas occurred in the distant East Indies. This volcano produced a colossal amount of ash that cooled the climate globally for several years, sparking a feedback loop that in time led to the Little Ice Age. In the mountainous west of North America, the regionally colder climate appeared far earlier than Europe. For the people of Ts'edehege and its environs who relied on warm-weather crops like maize, the shorter growing season stunted their harvests and threw their calendar into disarray.

Crippled by drought, famine, and frost, Ts'edehege gradually depopulated from 1280 to 1300. From a height of perhaps 5,000 people only decades earlier, what remained of the city was a mostly deserted center of only 20% that number. No more than 15,000 people lived in the entire surrounding area of several thousand square kilometers. Many villages fell abandoned, the people switching to towey goat pastoralism. Only a few core urban centers, including Phaap'in [5] and Ts'edehege itself, survived this depopulation. This appears to be a result of immigration from some Northern Puebloan centers who brought with them new ideas and new trade connections. These trade connections enabled Ts'edehege to import food from the north, permitting the survival of their urban center.

Among the many social revolutions of this era involved the rise of the prophet P'oseynemu, later a legendary figure among people to the south [6]. P'oseyemu preached against the hierarchies found in Ts'edehege's society and promoted a return to a mythologised ancestral past which he claimed lay in the south, achievable through following him and migrating home. His egalitarianism led to social revolution within Ts'edehege and its surrounding communities that took the form of massacres, village burnings, and civil war as his followers sought to gather and lead the people to their true homeland.

In the end, P'oseyemu failed in his mission to bring the entirety of the Ts'edehege people to the south. Despite decades of warfare and revolts, increased resistance grouped the remaining people of the Ts'edehege region together in conflict against P'oseyemu, even as they suffered the massacre of entire villages. P'oseyemu and his followers settled peace with the elites of Ts'edehege and departed the land to reside among communities he already established in the south. These related clans, called the Tewa people, came to revere P'oseyemu as a spiritual ancestor and semi-divine figure.

A counter-ideology led by the priests emphasised connections with both the Northern Puebloans and the people of Sh'idiichi, resulting in increasing amounts of Shi'idiichi-emulating cliff dwellings among the people of the Ts'edehege region both for prestige and defense. Increasingly cut off from southern trade routes by their hostile Tewa kin, those of Ts'edehege looked north for networks of support. Likewise, only the barest of elements of the kachina cult were ever established in this region.

The people surrounding Ts'edehege thus became an ethnicity unto themselves known as the Pishan after their Apache exonym Biishan meaning "people of the cliffs". They regarded P'oseyemu as a dangerous troublemaker who brought war and famine, and in their stories a villain whose followers they expelled from their communities. For centuries to come, the Pishan always regarded the Tewa with deep suspicion and at times even took the effort to make war on them despite their distance in order to steal their livestock and kill their priests. They similarly viewed the Hopi as enemies, viewing them as responsible for the massacre of their ancestors at Öqavi under P'oseyemu's influence (the Hopi denied the story and claimed Öqavi's people peacefully departed to Hopi lands after threats from the Pishan).

Northern Puebloans suffered greatly as well from this depopulation. Drought along with extreme cold gripped their homeland, consistently ruining the maize crop year after year and making the growth of beans nearly impossible. Those who grew the cold-tolerant Fusanian crops like camas and biscuitroot survived, yet many of these crops (especially their local cultivars) did not produce as many calories as maize or protein as beans and thus caused increased malnutrition and infant mortality.

The trade with North Fusania suffered tremendously thanks to the concurrent collapse of the Wayamese Empire with the catastrophic Great Kamanyaku Landslide. This disaster killed over 160,000 people and displaced countless more while leaving the Wayamese heartland underwater for years [7]. Faced with a lack of imported goods from the Imaru Basin, the prestige of the Northern Puebloan elite was greatly damaged which spawned all manner of aggression and warfare.

Unwilling to starve or perish, many Northern Puebloan communities aggregated with each other or migrated south. The Hopian-speaking peoples joined with their kin at the Hopi mesas in the south, leaving much of the south deserted except for the area near Kwahovi, while other Northern Puebloans attached themselves to Ts'edehege's sphere and assimilated into the Pishan people. Nomadism among the remaining peoples increased, and some of these nomads departed the area entirely such as several bands of the Kaigwu people (according to legend, half of them) departed to the plains, becoming the people later known as the Kiowa.

Unlike the other portions of the Oasisamerican world, social revolution in this region was muted. Only among the Anibitec people, relatives of the Hopi to the south, incorporated elements of kachina religion (including veneration of blue-tinted maize) into their culture [8]. Those demanding egalitarianism simply departed toward the south or merged with the nomadic peoples around them. It appears the revolution in this region occurred in a method more typical of North Fusania--charismatic leaders rose up and overthrew the previous ruling class, placing their own followers in their place.

That is not to say Northern Puebloan society remained the same however. This development may be attributed to a small migration of refugees from the Imaru Basin, possibly from as far as Wayam itself, refugees who introduced new cultivars of camas, biscuitroot, and other North Fusanian crops. Materially, they introduced hillside stone shrines akin to those found in the Imaru Basin that became focal points for winter ritual dances meant to drive off the winter and bring about the spring.

Fusanians recognised some of these ceremonies and disdained them as "foolish Hillmen imitations", as Chemnese historian Luts'anahui K'usinmitlamtikh describes in Hillmen of the Southern Lands:

"As befits their kind, the Hillmen of these southerly lands imitate and mock even our sacred winter dances. The dancers wear not robes of cedar but simple tehi fibers so rough they feel like bark. They further fool themselves they are practicing true ritual through stringing fir boughs and strange incense around their robes. At the height of their barbaric frenzy, the Hillmen dismember their finest white towey goat and scatter its entrails to the four directions as their shaman drinks its blood and spits it into a holy vessel, with which he deposits across the village fields. In their folly the Hillmen believe this prevents the land from freezing, yet no false ritual ever heals the land from the North Wind's chill."

A greater portion of Northern Puebloan villages remained permanently abandoned than anywhere else, ensuring the land of the Northern Puebloans suffered great intrusions from outside migrants. Nama peoples, alongside some bands of Natsiwi, migrated into this land from the north and west, where they mingled with those already present. New ethnicities emerged from this, such as the Shoshoni and the Yuta, as well as the Atzague people, an offshoot of the Natsiwi who farmed and herded goats in the abandoned fields of the Northern Puebloans and clustered by the dry Lake Atzague [9].

Most notable of these migrants were the Inde peoples from the north, or Southern Dena, who penetrated well into the heartland of Oasisamerica. The history of this Dena group lies irrevokably tied to the history of the Plains and conflicts between various Dena tribes [10]. Originating far in the north, the ancestors of the Inde traveled alongside the Sechihin Dena and Plains Dena until their acrimonious split in the mid-13th century, from whence they arrived in northern Oasisamerica. A mobile people, the Inde lived as horticultural pastoralists in the foothills, growing some crops but mainly relying on their reindeer and goats.

Although they abandoned reindeer pastoralism, the Inde remained avid towey goat herders. Like other Dena groups before them, they proved remarkably adaptive and married into pre-existing herding societies, gaining their knowledge--and via inheritance, their animals. Among this knowledge was agricultural practices, an expansion on the rudimentary horticulture used by all Dena societies. Their adaptivity settled vacant lands and drove remnant populations from their homes in the final phase of the Dena Migrations.

In the mid-13th century, the Inde split into three groups somewhere near Bear's Tower [11]. The first group allied with Kiowa and journeyed east toward the Plains, while the second remained in the north living among the foothills of the Plains as towey goat pastoralists after abandoning their reindeer. The third group of pastoralists traveled south, where they split into nomadic groups (who later became the Apachean peoples) and farming groups (who became the Navajo). The latter especially came to inherit many aspects of Oasisamerican culture, including similar ceremonies and artistic motifs. However, they still preferred earth lodges (termed hogan) and never built pueblos, viewing the abandoned buildings as haunted by the ghosts of their traditional enemies.

In all, the Great Drought marked the end of Oasisamerican civilisation as had existed for several centuries. The developing cultures of the past that reached their high water mark in the Classical proved unsustainable--or unwilling to be sustained--in the face of their trouble adapting to nature's challenges. On all sides, new peoples pressured the remaining Oasisamericans, and new ideologies and faiths arose that shook the culture to its core. Yet flanked by the growing civilisations of Fusania and Mesoamerica, a true collapse proved impossible, for in time, the rains would return and civilisation arise again restored.

Author's notes
The late 13th century was the beginning of intense changes for Oasisamerica likely triggered by the Great Drought of the mid-late 13th century, and while the evolution of things is out of the scope of this entry (indeed, I could've omitted it entirely and saved it for MUCH later), I felt I should address the onset of it given I already wrote most of this for the last entry and have the research fresh in my head.

The Oasisamericans do much better than OTL in the Great Drought because of both draft animals--organised dog breeding and towey goats--and especially microlivestock like waterfowl, turkeys, and chuckwallas. Protein deficiency was a consistent problem during harsher years, but a source of domesticated animals helps alleviate this issue. This, along with the more diverse and developed agricultural package that includes drought-tolerant crops like ricegrass and (in northern areas) camas and biscuitroot as well as larger trading networks (including with both North and South Fusania), helps Oasisamerica grow larger and wealthier than OTL and survive the crippling drought of the 13th century with fewer changes.

Even so, the trend toward egalitarianism and away from the more centralised Chaco system and its imitators seems apparent, although there's also plenty of backlash, at times successful. Like OTL, the trend is facilitated by new religions inspired by outside systems, and I've shown how both Fusanian and Mesoamerican influences make themselves apparent.

Much about the religions of Oasisamerica is from OTL. For instance, P'oseyemu is a figure venerated in traditional Tewa religion (as well as those of nearby groups under different names) who may have been a historic figure involved in a social revolution at Mesa Verde during its collapse. Today his story is expressed in mythological terms. The description of the kachina (also spelled katsina) religion are more or less OTL as well, even if the exact origins of it and details on differences in its practice 700 years ago will forever be lost to time.

This entry was released on Easter Sunday, a holiday of multiple origins that celebrates resurrection and the arrival of spring. In a way, I think its fitting I placed emphasis on the kachina religion (one of its main components is its function as a fertility ritual) as well as the less OTL Fusanian-inspired fertility ritual of the Northern Puebloans. My next entry will deal with another group in this region, the Nama, as well as the Natsiwi and Atzegue. As always, thanks for reading!

[1] - The OTL Oodham peoples of Arizona and Sonora. At least some of the Hohokam were relatives (others were ancestors of Yuman-speaking groups in Arizona), but the Oodham also descend from nomadic peoples who existed even in that era.
[2] - Chapbahluwalaawa is Grasshopper Pueblo in Arizona, the name my own construction based on a Zuni word for "grasshopper"
[3] - The origins of kachina religion in Oasisamerica is unknown, but generally regarded to involve Mesoamerican influences (i.e. Tlaloc, feathered serpents) and trace itself to the southerly areas (i.e. Mimbres culture and later Paquime). I believe the larger, more vibrant Paquime TTL probably means it plays a greater role in its development.
[4] - Essentially the OTL spread of kachina and proto-kachina elements.
[5] - Phaap'in is Yucca House in Montezuma County, CO. It appears to be the OTL Tewa name for the place.
[6] - P'oseyemu is an actual mythological figure among the Tewa. One theory suggests his legend is based on historical events in the Mesa Verde region and he played a role akin to Po'pay in the later Pueblo Revolt (and indeed, P'oseyemu comes up in accounts of the Tewa perspective of the revolt, and Po'pay's followers are known as "lieutenants of P'oseyemu"). If historic, this would not be the OTL individual but an ATL counterpart who was given the same name (which itself appears culturally significant and may not have been the OTL figure's name he was called in life).
[7] - See chapter 71--this is the OTL "bridge of the gods" landslide on the Columbia River
[8] - Spanish form of Hannibiitega, their exonym in Shoshoni meaning "maize eater" (reference to the sacred role of maize), singling them out as the only group in the area for whom maize still served a major part of the diet
[9] - The Atzague ("people of the lake") are an ATL Palaihnihan-speaking group, an offshoot of the Natsiwi who are themselves offshoots of the Atsugewi. Their name is a Hispanicised form of "Atsawe", their endonym. Lake Atzague is Sevier Lake, a mostly dry lake in Utah
[10] - Similar to OTL, where the first Southern Athabaskans (or Inde, as I've termed them as, compare my use of Tanne for Coast Athabaskans) to diverge appear to be the Plains Apache who held a long alliance with the Kiowa (where unlike TTL, the entirety of the Kiowa people left Utah for the Plains), followed by those who speak "Eastern Apachean" languages. Southern Athabaskan people are incredibly diverse, from small-scale Plains villagers in modern Texas mostly destroyed by the Spanish and Plains Indians to the Navajo and their many more typical Southwestern cultural elements
[11] - Devils Tower in Wyoming, the name of the monument TTL avoiding the unfortunate misinterpretation that led to its OTL name (nowadays discouraged by indigenous peoples as the monument is the opposite of diabolic to them).
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Chapter 79-Stone, Sand, and Scalps
"Stone, Sand, and Scalps"

The unconquered desert stood as the foremost enemy of civilisation on the Imaru Plateau, for no matter how much a village irrigated their crops, planted trees, and conducted the proper rituals, in the end the desert consumed the fruits of these efforts. Yet a different civilisation considered this vast area of deserts their home. Living alongside the meager reserves of water in this land, these people developed a reputation as harsh as the desert they lived in.

The Great Basin forms the largest desert of the Americas, spanning nearly 400,000 square kilometers in area. It consists of dozens of valleys and sinks formed from the uplifting of innumerable mountain ranges and drying out of prehistoric lakes. These valleys include the single hottest portion of North America. While some areas along the fringes or in the mountains have meager precipitation, the majority sees only a few centimeters of rain a year. Stony, cracked ground strewn with sagebrush dominates the land as far as the eye can see.

Numerous lakes and rivers both ephemeral and permanent lay in the desert, but many are undrinkable. The soil within the desert tends to be highly saline and alkaline, rendering the water toxic or extremely unpleasant to drink. During droughts, even these water sources dry up into endless salt flats that more closely resemble the surface of an alien world. The search for water thus plays the essential role in the desert, forcing the people to cluster around the few springs and perennial streams.

Yet people lived in these deserts for over ten thousand years, hunting the big game that lived in nearby mountains and gathering nuts from trees and those plants that grew in the desert. Quintessential hunter-gatherers, they lived a lifestyle in small, scattered bands perfectly adapted for the challenges the land threw at them. For thousands of years, the tools and strategies they used to survive barely changed, even if the people themselves did. Archaeologists term this culture the Desert Archaic, relatives of other so-called Archaic cultures in North America [1].

All of that changed in the early centuries of the Common Era. To the north and west of the desert, a great movement of peoples from the north--the Dena expansions--introduced agriculture and pastoralism to the people of the Imaru Basin and subsequently South Fusania. This caused a great explosion of the population of both humans and animals in nearby regions, producing many new challenges--and opportunities--for the peoples of the desert.

Some left the desert entirely. This seems to be the case with the ancestors of the Mayi and Dongkama people, where all but a small minority left around 1,500 years ago following increased contacts with mountain peoples to their west [2]. Seeing a more bountiful lifestyle, the tribes who became the Mayi and Dongkama simply migrated west using the mobility the desert lifestyle offered and eventually integrated themselves into the early Kuksuist world. Those who remained avoided assimilation, the ancestors of the Manbequi [3], thanks to continuing contacts with the Mayi and Dongkama to their west that permitted acquistion of wealth.

Those who remained in the desert adapted as always, integrating elements of agriculture into their livelihoods thanks to occasional population influxes south. Lacking the population and know-how to construct complex irrigation, they carved out the most rudimentary of irrigation along the few permanent streams and springs of the desert such as the Hupu River [4]. With this they raised small crops of hardy camas, biscuitroot, and especially ricegrass that supplemented their traditional hunting and gathering. Semi-sedentary villages formed in response to this, initiating the new Desert Formative period.

While poor in yield compared to the agriculture of Fusania, it enabled the beginnings of population expansion and societal complexity. Wealth distinctions emerged between those who roamed by the rivers, and elders with particular skill and success at farming emerged in solid leadership roles. Because of this surplus of goods and people, trade increased as hunters brought excess game to those communities that relied on farming.

This period, called the Desert Formative, came to a close around 950 AD with the widespread adaptation of metallurgy in the new Desert Chalcolithic. This corresponds with the Nama migrations, where Nama-speaking peoples from the southern Great Basin followed their ancestors north and east. In the 11th century, the Natsiwi started moving into the region, driven by volcanic eruptions and Maguraku raids [5], while Ancestral Cayuse tribes joined from the north a century later. These three groups assimilated all remnants of other groups in the Great Basin beside the Woshu at the western fringe and the Maanbekim, dominating the history of the region from that point onward.

The Desert Chalcolithic marks the appearance of the two foremost traits of the desert peoples--pastoralism and metallurgy. The towey goat appeared around 950 AD, a borrowing from the Amorera and Ancestral Cayuse. Bands of desert nomads exchanged goats amongst each other and with it the skills of herding them, much as they had in the past with other knowledge. Along with towey goats came domesticated ducks that added an additional resource. Pastoralism was intensified by the adoption of new crops like sunflowers, beans, mesquite, and maize from the Puebloans, which largely displaced the Fusanian crops (with the exception of the hardy ricegrass).

Like elsewhere, towey goat pastoralism revolutionised local cultures, granting them a hardy animal for easy tools, meat, milk and labour. Their cultures reoriented themselves around the goats, which like elsewhere became regarded as symbols of wealth. Towey goats became focuses for trade and raiding, acting as a store of wealth and status. However, the many centuries of egalitarianism was not so easy to overturn--the wealthy found themselves pressed by their extended families for aid and often gave away nearly all their wealth simply to maintain their status. Inequality thus centered around distinctions between richer and poorer clans.

Metallurgy, borrowed from neighbouring regions around the same era, brought similar changes to desert culture. Surrounded by rich veins of copper, silver, gold, and lead, the desert peoples developed skills in smelting these ores using fires of dung, sagebrush, or the rare trees in the area. Thanks to the scarcity of fuel, the smithing techniques were closely guarded by various families who have intense training both physical and spiritual to their kinsmen, the prospective smiths. As a result, Nama metalworking focused on quality and craftsmanship, restricted toward sacred artifacts, regalia and weapons for the most successful, and goods for export.

It was these exports that brought the Nama fame. The Nama used their mobility and crossed between villages in the desert, bringing home wealth from afar in exchange for their ingots and art. In the deserts of the Nama, goods from the Puebloans to the east and south, Kuksuists and Quaoarists to the west, and Imaru Basin peoples to the north mingled together, influencing Nama artists and resulting in distinct aesthetics in their art both metallic and woven that seemed to blend half a continent into a single piece.

Natsiwi culture stood out as distinct from the Nama peoples. They lived primarily in the highlands and relied more heavily on farming, growing meager crops of ricegrass, breadroot, and camas which they watered using simple wooden dams that collected runoff. Like other Nama, they relied on hunting, gathering, and pastoralism for much of their needs, living in a semi-sedentary lifestyle.

Yet their most distinct characteristic lay in their veneration of the sugar pine, a tree they transplated to the desert highlands. Like their ancestors to the west, the sugar pine played a key role in their culture to a degree they believed the first humans emerged from a pine cone. Although the trees grew stunted in the warmer, drier climate, they still proved incredibly useful for its wood, its sap (used as medicine or a sweetener), and especially as food, where both the inner bark and the pine nuts served as essential food supplies for the Natsiwi people.

Tending these groves, Natsiwi culture evolved a surprisingly complex system of forestry despite their small numbers (likely no more than 5,000 people spread out over many thousands of square kilometers of land) and harsh environment. Like the Chuma far to the southwest along the coast, the Natsiwi recognised the concept of "fog trees" and planted sugar pines and other species at particular locations to help them accumulate additional water beneath their branches. Natsiwi forestry practices thus enabled the spread of non-native sugar pines far to the east of their native range.

While oral legend records ancient animosity between the Natsiwi and Nama, their relation settled down to being one of indifference. They occasionally clashed with each other, but mostly lived in mutual cooperation, with the Natsiwi paying Nama tribes in the lowlands the rights to pass to the nearest mountain range and the Nama purchasing pine nuts, syrup, and other crafts from the Natsiwi. The Nama viewed the Natsiwi as spiritually gifted, yet soft men unsuited for desert living and looked down on them.

The rise of the Wayamese Empire in the early 12th century further changed the area. Wayamese campaigns (alongside those of their occasional ally Ewallona) evicted many tribes to areas much further south. These migrating new arrivals fought over the limited resources in a series of bitter wars that often resulted in migrations in all directions but west (where the hostile Woshu and Tanne continued blocking them). This produced the Nama expansion, where several different dialect groups of Nama migrated northwards, eastwards, and northeastwards toward the lands of the Puebloans.

The Nama expansion toward the Puebloans was blunted due to numerous hill tribes who practiced the same towey goat herding lifestyle, leaving the Nama no ecological niche. Only at the fringes of the Hopi world did Nama tribes displace the Puebloans, founding settlements near the ruins of old pueblos like Moapa [6] and starting a distinctly sedentary lifestyle due to influence of the nearby Haiyic peoples.

The less populated lands of the Northern Puebloans, enduring periodic drought and years of colder weather served as the main target for Nama migration. Nama people already existed there as both hill tribes and the Tiguelque, a settled tribe who moved into their land they called Seuhubeogoi in the late 12th century. Using the less densely populated hills as conduits, the Nama migrated as far east as the foothills of the American Divides. They coalesced into new ethnic groups like the Shoshoni and Yuta, pastoralist hill tribes who periodically attacked into the southern valleys to claim livestock and slaves.

Other groups accompanied these Nama. For instance, the Atzagues pushed into abandoned valleys near the semi-dry Lake Atzague, establishing a highly successful pastoralist culture noted for its unusual aggression compared to the Natsiwi. Along them came the Manbequi, a Mayic-speaking group who settled by the western shore of the Great Salt Lake. They became known as fine salt traders by the Aipakhpam and Tenepelu, packing their cargoes on grey towey goats.

Much of the success of these groups at expansion derived from their warfare practices. Nama warfare centered around hit and run raids of war parties between 70 and 100 men, ensuring their warriors traveled light. They wore little but loinclothes and wicker helmets and fought primarily as skirmishers, throwing javelins and shooting the enemy with their bows. Leaders and scouts in the raiding party marked their status by wearing the pelts of wolves, eagle feathers, and copper bracelets. The latter were manufactured exclusively from weapons stolen from enemies and melted down, considered the mark of an elite warrior.

The Nama generally refused battle without extensively scouting the land. Their scouts analysed all potential battlegrounds and auspicious locations for fighting, reporting them to the war chief long before they advanced. Scouts also engaged in sabotage and spying, assassinating watchmen, setting fires, and looting armories. When the Nama raid came, the Nama quickly claimed their treasure (usually livestock, food, or women and children) and retreated, setting up an ambush point if needed.

At this ambush point they attacked the enemy with the intention of forcing a retreat and spreading fear. Trained from birth as hardy desert runners and hunters, they fired at the enemy with their bow, deliberately targetting enemy leaders. They masked their numbers, always keeping a few men in reserve to make their war party appear larger. As chaos spread among the enemy ranks, the Nama charged in with their war clubs and spears in order to break the enemy lines in panic. If this failed, the Nama pulled back and continued peppering the enemy with arrows, often while retreating. Survivors were scalped and left for dead. Returning home with the loot, they celebrated a scalp dance.

Wayam continued to greatly influence Nama history. Much of the Nama migration north was facilitated by the destruction of the Amorera in the early 13th century, opening a vast amount of desert for the Nama to move into. There the Nama assimilated the remainder of the Amorera and took up their former activities that included raiding the southern prefectures of Wayam. Wayamese counters to these raids destroyed entire Nama villages, yet these lands rarely remained vacant for long--proximity to Wayam simply proved too valuable.

Naturally, Wayam's decline and sudden collapse caused great disruptions among the desert cultures. Without a structure capable of rapidly dispatching large numbers of soldiers into the desert, the Nama raided lands with impunity. At the same time, the Nama lost much of their formerly valuable trade with Wayam that at times included food imports, sending entire clans into poverty and starvation. Along with the ongoing drought and epidemic, the population declined from a peak of perhaps 80,000 throughout the entire desert region [7] to as low as 30,000 by the late 13th century.

Along with the fall of the Wayamese Empire, the 13th century saw other great crises like a lengthy drought and severe plagues, events that grievously damaged Oasisamerica and South Fusania as well. Nama lands were no exception--their water supplies reduced to a trickle, the Nama culled much of their herd only to perish from the sudden onset of epidemic disease, bringing about starvation.

These factors ensured Nama migrations continued without end. As tribes perished of epidemic or moved off their land from a bad year, new tribes moved in and claimed this land, inevitably sparking conflict with the survivors. Nama legends speak of dark times brought about by greedy people disobeying nature--often their stories speak of them fleeing from these people toward their current home, finding them equally abandoned from the chaos.

Great leaders emerged in this crisis, and in the Nama case, it was religious leaders. Charismatic prophets, often stereotypically "from afar," preached messages condemning the people and demanding religious revival and conformity. Following their advice might banish drought and plague and even create new lakes and greenery and push back the desert. The prophets traveled from village to village, condemning vices and upholding virtues, often concluding with an appropriate ritual dance. Widely followed, they held the foremost sway over Nama society and usurped the traditionally elected chiefs.

They crossed ethnic borders, preaching among Nama and Natsiwi alike. Undoubtedly some prophets traveled even further, to Fusania or Oasisamerica, where they came in contact with faiths as diverse as North Fusanian religious cults, Kuksuism, Quaoarism, and the kachina cult. Like in Oasisamerica, well-traveled religious leaders held great prestige, encouraging these far out ventures. Their preaching was not always welcome--In his condemnation of Pillar King Tsanahuuwaptas, Nch'iyaka of Wapaikht notes that "he did ignore the false prophets of the southern Hillmen who cast many under their wicked spell."

The simple rituals and lifestyles the Nama prophets demanded resonated amongst not just the Nama, but their more settled neighbours. Nearby groups reacted differently--in Oasisamerica, a few kachinas along with a few dances explicitly are said to have come from "the northwestern desert", while in South Fusania and among the Maguraku, these dances blended into sacred knowledge held by the lodges. While the North Fusanian elite explicitly rejected these as false Hillmen rituals, they gained widespread following in some areas (mostly those on the fringe of the desert) and contributed to the distinctiveness of local Aipakhpam cultures.

These events mark the birth of what scholars term "Great Basin propheticism," the socioreligious system the Nama people (along with the Natsiwi, Atzegue, and Manbequi) followed from that point forward. Society remained in the grasp of prophets as people clamored for more preaching, permitting networks of religious scholars to exercise great control over villages. These networks were clan-based--prophets mentored their kin and adopted children who showed promising spiritual power. These clans thus became the ruling class of the Nama and related groups in the Great Basin.

Naturally, prophets often clashed among each other--one prophet might demand a well not be used, only for another prophet demand it must be used. The Nama developed a set of strict criteria for prophets and grades of their powers, and punished false prophets with death, carried out by lesser religious leaders and medicine men.

The Nama started refining tin at the end of the 13th century. Legend tells the first man who deliberately smelted tin believed it useless, selling it to a traveler for a loincloth. Yet this traveler took it to the coast and exchanged this plate of tin for a wife and small herd of towey goats. Such a story references the discovery of tin's value among coastal peoples (who imported it at great cost from the Far Northwest), but also Nama fear of exploitation by outsiders.

An incredibly rare resource in the North American west, tin occurred in only one small area of Nama lands along the lower Hupu River. Yet thanks to the wealth tin mining brought and their relatively well-watered lands, the people of this well-watered portion of Nama lands became exceedingly wealthy and connected to the outside world. A new village by the Hupu River named Kammupaa [8] started growing rapidly, and the prophets who ruled the village increasingly influential. Thanks to this new resource, the Nama world would change forever as the Desert Bronze Age dawned.

Author's notes
This entry largely covers stuff discussed in previous chapters, but includes a bit of how the desert functions in relation to the other areas. The Nama peoples and other desert dwellers are a fairly small-scale culture, yet more complex than OTL where the lifestyle their harsh environment required ensured simplicity was the only option. TTL, horticulture and especially pastoralism increases what the people of this region can do in their environment. In this case, the Nama make for strong desert raiders, but also hold a mercentile side as they are surrounded on all sides by complex civilisations to which the easiest trade routes run through their lands.

The Nama people are of course OTL's Numic-speaking peoples, with their name borrowed from a rendition of their

I have one more chapter on the desert peoples of Western North America, where I will finally cover Aztatlan in northwestern Mexico, who as I've hinted at thrive as middlemen between Oasisamerica (and ultimately Fusania) and Mesoamerica. I will possibly include an overview of Mesoamerica ITTL alongside the Chichimeca in either next chapter or the one after.

As always, thank you for reading.

[1] - This is as OTL, but with a different cutoff date for the end of the Desert Archaic.
[2] - The Mayi and Dongkama are TTL's Maiduan peoples, based on an OTL theory that holds the ancestors of the Maidu people of California moved west from the desert in Nevada
[3] - An ATL Maiduan-speaking group, their name a Spanish transcription of a native name meaning "Salt Eater" (an example of how thoroughly "Numicised" they are as Numic tribal names often end in "-eater" as well as overcoming traditional Maidu cultural aversion toward salt).
[4] - The Hupu River is the Humboldt River, a Sinicisation of its native Paiute and Shoshoni name
[5] - See chapter 27--the 10th and 11th centuries included a large eruption of Lassen Peak and a smaller eruption of Medicine Lake Volcano in northeastern California which along with Maguraku raids helped drive the ancestral Natsiwi east
[6] - Moapa is Pueblo Grande de Nevada, a large pueblo in Nevada (whose original name is unknown) in Overton, NV not too far from modern Moapa, NV
[7] - A not-quite overlap with the concept of the Great Basin, as it includes fringes of the Colorado rivershed. But as a refresher, this area includes all of Nevada, the westernmost parts of Utah, south-central Oregon, and bits of central-eastern California (i.e. Death Valley).
[8] - Kammupaa is Imlay, Nevada
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A desert region, full of migratory pastoralists on the edge of a great riverine civilization, becoming a cradle of religion? Seems familiar 😜
A desert region, full of migratory pastoralists on the edge of a great riverine civilization, becoming a cradle of religion? Seems familiar 😜
Well, I mean the Ghost Dance did originate there and spread quite wide. The parallels already existed OTL, which is pretty interesting in of itself.
Chapter 80-Merchant Kings of a Distant Shore
"Merchant Kings of a Distant Shore"

Eishou-ji (永勝寺) Ishikari Province, May 1500​

The cool sea-breeze lapped Jikken's face as he arose from hours of meditation on a cliff not far from the monastery. The sun hung low in the sky above the endless expanse of blue stretching toward the horizon. Nightfall would soon be here, bringing about a strange chill even so close to summer, and returning to the warm temple meant quite a walk through the forest back toward Eishou-ji.

Gaiyuchul sat motionless beside him, still in meditation. He said not a word or a single sutra, perhaps reflecting on them in his head and sat oblivious to the world in his perfect meditative pose, ignoring the distant cries of seagulls, the occasional gusts of wind, or Jikken's shadow casting over him. Jikken reflected solemnly on the man, a former warrior and prince who now made a perfect model of a man approaching enlightenment.

"Is it right to rouse Gaiyuchul when he's like this?" Jikken thought to himself. "Perhaps he seeks to endure the suffering of exposure, hunger, thirst, and wild animals to find a new understanding. And perhaps he doesn't care if he dies."

But Jikken purged that thought from his head at once, as Gaiyuchul seemed still tied to this world. He continued his occasional painting, and lately even started composing a new text in that arcane, difficult to read script the Soui wrote their languages in that he refused to let Jikken see, only giving him promises of its importance. The man remained a complete enigma as ever, and reflecting on that made Jikken less guilty about gently shaking him.

"Waking me from meditation, what sort of monk are you?" Gaiyuchul grumbled as he clutched Jikken's arm with a wrinkled hand. Jikken helped him to his feet and handed him his well-carved cane.

"I'm so sorry, brother, but it is getting late and it is still quite a walk back," Jikken replied, bowing in apology.

Gaiyuchul folded his arms and turned his attention toward the sea and sky, gazing at it with that thoughtful look he so often had.

"Perhaps I wanted to pass beyond the horizon into the west like so many great men I've known," he muttered.

"I've been around you long enough, there are things you feel you need to do before you leave this life," Jikken said, ignoring the pang of worry at the fact Gaiyuchul might leave him soon.

"Indeed, indeed there is." Gaiyuchul nodded, his attention remaining on the horizon. He raised a withered hand and arm, pointing toward it. "Isn't it strange how little we know nothing about what lies beyond the horizon? Before I came to Japan, I would have been certain sailing this far would bring me to that place, yet now I know it's even further, for if I sail toward the sunset I only find the land of the Jurchens and other Northern Barbarians. Yet what is beyond that horizon? Would I finally find the Land of the Dead?"

"Like the texts say, India, where Shakyamuni himself lived" Jikken answered, the only thing he might say to Gaiyuchul's musing. "And beyond there, Persia, and even further beyond there, Daqin [1]. Maybe the Land of the Dead lays beyond even Daqin."

"When you say it like that, it recalls how I foolishly believed all my life that I knew all about the world from my travels in the service of my masters, yet clearly I knew nothing," Gaiyuchul said. "Perhaps I was just a fool, and the most wild tales T'ashatlinhl Qwinishtis told held truth."

"T'ashatlinhl Qwinishtis?" Jikken sputtered, trying to copy the throaty Soui name of the man Gaiyuchul pronounced. "Saga of the Peoples of the World mentions him, was he another man who knew all about those distant places?" Jikken asked. He was certain Gaiyuchul knew interesting stories about him.

"They called him the 'Pathfinder' and other names," Gaiyuchul started. "He was a brilliant scout who might find anything, inheritor of his father's great skills. Qwinishtis vanished for many years after I returned from the Plains in the far east, off on a mission from the Pillar King to proclaim his dominion in ever land, yet in my older years he reappeared after so many years, telling all manner of stories that sounded exactly what the merchants at the ports might tell, yet the goods he brought back proved there was something to it."

Gaiyuchul grew misty-eyed as nostalgia took him. "Ah, I'll never forget the peculiar earthy taste of that dark drink and how it kept me up for a day and night perfectly alert, or that strange bitter mealy drink he prepared from those odd beans which went down so fine with pine syrup, the one you Japanese call kegama." [2]

"Was that that tea one of your companions brought?" Jikken said, thinking back to that strange Fusanian drink some of the monks at Eishou-ji drank.

"Indeed it was. Kiyuuchi, as you Japanese call it nowadays, a precious drink of strength from lands far away. Kegama, kiyuuchi, the most fragrant incense and wood, the brightest clothes, pelts of strange beasts, brilliant gems, so many things come from that place. Golden statues and implements abound at all corners of that society and all but the poorest men stand as nobles might."

Jikken nodded, thinking the place sounded like descriptions he read about India in the writings of the wise pilgrim Xuanzang who traveled to that country, the birthplace of Buddha.

"This country must be a wealthy and bountiful land indeed, then, blessed by the heavens," Jikken mused.

Gaiyuchul shook his head.

"Wealthy and bountiful yes, but blessed by the heavens I do not believe, for they eat the Hillman's food and grow weak [3] not just physically, but in spirit as well. The merchants tell lurid tales of cannibal feasts, and Qwinishtis claims he witnessed eight thousand men sacrificed on a single occasion, great racks of skulls that dwarf all the whaling shrines of the Coastmen, and rivers of blood flowing down great mountains of stone. Something about that land is strange."

"Are they barbarians?" Jikken asked. Images of a strange society flickered through his head at Gaiyuchul's vivid words, one that seemed at once exotic and wonderful

Gaiyuchul didn't answer, pondering a difficult question he no doubt pondered to himself many times.

"I do not know, but would like to," he spoke at last. "If they are, I must know why these barbarians seem so wise in so many ways. If they are not, I must know why they hold so little semblance of civilised morality and treat the sacrifice of a human being with such callousness."

"I suppose we don't need to think of a place as far as the afterlife to reach a place we'll never understand without visiting and living there," Jikken said.

"That is true," Gaiyuchul said. "Now let us return to the monastery before it gets colder."

As the two set off through the trail in the woods, Jikken reflected on their conversation and wanted to ask Gaiyuchul one more question.

"By the way, what is the furthest land you know that exists on this earth?"

Gaiyuchul gave him a brief glance before focusing his gaze ahead in thought, saying nothing as he concentrated on walking straight, clutching his staff at all times.

"Those lands in the furthest south stretch on forever, full of new countries with equally puzzling habits. Perhaps somewhere the lands bend west and connect with China and India much as the country of the Ringitsu in the north bends west and connects so near to Japan [4]."

"Maybe you're right. I wonder what those lands are like?" Jikken never heard of any lands laying beyond the islands south of Vietnam, or any lands south of India.

"I've heard little. Qwinishtis claims he met sailors of a strong nation called Shanshan in these far southern ports who live in an empire of gold and silver. They live so far south the sun stands still throughout the year. Qwinishtis claims they breed strange towey goats with very long necks and legs but no horns, animals he witnessed sold in the markets of Aztatlan to only the wealthiest men. [5]"

Jikken could scarcely picture such a strange creature--the strange goat-looking creatures Gaiyuchul drew in his paintings appeared odd enough.

As the trees thinned and the monastery drew near, Gaiyuchul sighed, still deep in thought.

"Although our world fell into chaos countless years ago, it retains much in the way of balance. There are four primordial divisions of society, divided in two and two [6]. Much as that, there are two centers of civilisation and two peripheries of barbarism. Yet they must differ from each other. Are there barbaric civilised people? Are there civilised Hillmen? May I discover these answers one day so I might spread knowledge of the Buddha of Infinite Light to all alive."


In a land called Aztatlan, the harsh deserts and mountains of Oasisamerica gave way for the exotic jungles and hills of Mesoamerica, rimmed by the Pacific coast on the east. Like many borderlands, a unique culture budded in this area influenced by both yet entirely unto itself. The products of rich mines to the east and north, the fertile soils of their homeland and those to the south, and the boundless sea collided to produce a people for whom global trade seemed as natural as eating. While Mesoamericans considered Aztatlan a backwater full of greedy merchants, for the people of the north it was an unimaginably wealthy paradise, a gateway to the heart of Mesoamerica and beyond.

Aztatlan's origins lay in its distinction from both Chichimeca to the east and Mesoamerica to the south. Like much of the immediate area north of Mesoamerica, Uto-Aztecan speakers [7] formed the main inhabitants, indeed located not far from the very origin of these cultures. They developed largely independently as among the first outside Mesoamerica to farm maize and appear linked to the spread of Uto-Aztecan languages. Their architecture and societal models based on wealthy, prestigious headmen thus vaguely resembled those of the northern areas of Oasisamerica yet evolved in a far different direction.

The mangrove swamps ringing Aztatlan's ever shifting shores were rich in plant life and especially shellfish to harvest. Canoes set out along these barrier islands, harvesting further sustenance from the Gulf of Anquon and providing transit between villages. These links down the coast, accompanied with land-based trails made them natural traders. As early as 1200 BC, influence of their civilisation in the form of art appeared as far away as northwestern South America [8], in later centuries expanded toward shared innovations like similar approaches to bronze-working and the construction of shaft tombs.

Each area of Aztatlan remained distinct in language and culture, with many varied traditions emerging such as famous circular pyramids or deep shaft tombs with rich grave offerings. No large political or cultural entities formed in this region for many centuries, even as societies like Teotihuacan spread its influence to every corner of Mesoamerica. Aztatlan remained a collection of city-states and confederations, who united their valleys under a charismatic and wealthy noble class who maintained power through their acquisition of rare and expensive goods.

Over time, Aztatlan became drawn into Mesoamerica as a whole thanks to its elites' pursuit of wealth. The era of Teotihuacan marks the beginnings of this, yet it seems true regional integration only occurred in the tumultuous times at the end of the Classic Period in the 9th century. Here emerged the powerful city of Amapa at the rich delta of the Chignahuapan [9], followed by others (from north to south): Tzalahua, Tomatlán, Ixtapa, Chametla, Colhuacán, and Guasave [10].

By 1000 AD, the area known as Aztatlan had fully emerged, stretching along the coast from the Kingdom of Tzalahua in the south to the Kingdom of Guasave in the north. Two regional divisions caused by economic factors, culture, and climate existed--northern Aztatlan, from the coastal marshes between Amapa and Chametla to Guasave's domain and southern Aztatlan from those marshes to the coastal strip near Tzalahua [11]. Despite the vast distances and distinct climates ranging from semi-arid to tropical, this area possessed remarkable unity thanks to cultural and economic connections.

The revival of Mesoamerica (along with the ending of a lengthy drought) during the early Postclassic accelerated Aztatlan's development. The aforementioned cities grew in size and specialization and begun spreading their connections far and wide. By the 11th century, it seems likely they were in contact with the growing centers of Oasisamerica and the many villages and towns in-between, acting as middlemen for sending north Mesoamerican goods like cacao, dyed cotton, copal, jade, parrots, and shells north in exchange for turquoise, bison pelts, incense, antler, whalebone, ivory, and copper plates.

Aztatlan produced many goods locally--the entire region grew much in the way of cotton, importing or locally producing various dyes which gave it rich and famed hues. The southerly and wealthier cities such as Ixtapa grew cacao, a highly valued good in the rich, fertile soil that produced great crops of maize and beans. They produced salt from the sea and harvested shells and shellfish which they traded deep inland. From the mountains they obtained obsidian and copper, shaping it into typical bladed tools, ornaments, and weapons. Skilled craftsmen produced fine ceramics exported widely in Mesoamerica. All of these came together in the cities, resulting in a proliferation of different craftsmen producing finished goods for trade elsewhere.

The wealth and strength of Aztatlan lay in the broad specialisation of each valley. Climate, local conditions, and culture led to certain valleys growing primarily one cash crop (with cotton somewhat of an exception). For instance, the Kingdom of Ixtapa grew much cacao, while Colhuacán grew tobacco. This extended toward manufactures as well,such as how Amapa served as the center for manufacturing shell jewelry, which was not manufactured in large amounts in other Aztatlan cities. Smaller, poorer valleys tended to focus on food production. This even extended toward their trade goods, where Guasave was famed for Fusanian goods and Chametla for exporting the rare green stones they obtained from the Chichimec trade center of Chalchihuitl.

Unlike the pochteca of Central Mexico, the traders of Aztatlan ranked among the nobility and eagerly showed it. They acquired goods for their extended family, hoping to win themselves or a relative political office, carrying it on the backs of porters who might carry over 60 kilograms up to 60 kilometers a day. Their journeys took them to distant towns where they forged connections with local elite and often acted as advisors. They defused elements from Mesoamerica such as ballcourts and Tlaloc worship across Aztatlan and Chichimeca and into Oasisamerica.

In this era, the trade routes north from Mesoamerica either followed the coast until they reached Guasave, or turned inward toward Chichimeca and reached Chalchiuitl [12], a prominent trade center of that region. From either point, the route continued inward, crossing through the desert valleys of Chichimeca until it reached Puebloan lands and cities like Paquime and Piasihlito, thereafter following local trading routes and the roads of Sh'idiichi and other cities that might lead to the Hohokam cities and Fusania.

The increasing development of South Fusania in the 11th and 12th centuries resulted in new land trade routes developing. They stretched north along the coast, running through incredibly dry and rugged desert. It passed through the lands of the hunter-gatherer Kunke (sometimes called the Seri) and the Soba people of the Trincheras culture directly toward the Hohokam cities and the Anquon River. Unfortunately, relations between the Soba and Hohokam tended to be fraught with intrigue over the issue of payment for the shells brought through this area (and turned into shell jewelry by the Soba), and the Aztatlan merchants found themselves caught in the midst of this. Although a few integrated themselves into this trade, many perished and avoided the area due to banditry.

Fusanian merchants proved equally eager for the goods of Mesoamerica, spurring the development of the maritime segment of the Turquoise Road in the mid-12th century. With sailing technology inspired by the sails of the Chuma to their west, Patayan sailors built new sorts of rafts and started navigating the seas to both Kunke lands for their wealth in shells and eventually all the way to Guasave. They utilised the North American monsoon for their trade, using the northerly winds to sail south and sailing home with the arrival of the southerly winds in June.

With its far greater economy and competitive elite, Aztatlan took rapidly toward these ship designs and innovated their own craft. The shape of the raft grew more narrow and evolved into a sewn ship akin to a dhow, with the planks secured by sturdy willows, ropes, or for the largest ships, wooden nails. Like Patayan boats but unlike Fusanian craft, they were monohulled vessels. The most common was called chasimek in Guasave, Colhuacán, and nearby cities (and related words in other areas), a design of Patayan origin that grew far larger, typically appearing in sizes up to 10 meters long and carried 20 tons of cargo.

As Aztatlan's merchants lived among the Patayans from June to September during the monsoon, inevitably Fusanian elements spread to Aztatlan. Mesquite groves appeared in the drier north of Aztatlan alongside Fusanian crops like ricegrass and Hohokam agave. They grew tehi for its fiber, although unlike in Fusania made no clothes of it and instead used it for sacks, ropes, nets, and sails. Perhaps out of love for the exotic, even irrigated fields of omodaka appeared by the 13th century, populated with domesticated geese and ducks in a scene that might look strangely familiar to a visitor from as far away as Wayam, yet just as alien from the common presence of sizable chuckwallas (a popular meat in Aztatlan yet taboo for the Wayamese) basking on the shore of the pond.

Their ships arrived at ports further south as a more efficient means of trading goods than by land. Beyond Aztatlan, they traveled to ports all along the coast of Mesoamerica, with the main focus of their activity trade with powerful states like the Tlapanecs of Yopitzinco, the Mixtecs of Yucu Dzaa, and the Huave of Guisisi Gui on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec [13]. Their wide-ranging trade brought great wealth to this mountainous coast. Beyond that, Aztatlan ships were rare, even during their initial period of dominance in the late 12th century. However, it is clear that Aztatlan merchants acquired goods from further afield among the Maya and Central American peoples.

In the early Postclassic, none in Mesoamerica excelled at seafaring as much as the Aztatecs with their remarkably developed ship designs and navigation skills. Trained at reading the coast, knowing the winds, and marking latitude through study of the sky, they seemlessly navigated both coast and open ocean in their ships. Ironically, their skills and habit of settling for months in cities and advising local elites ensured Aztatec skills spread rapidly enough that by 1300 they were widespread across the Pacific as far south as South America. Coastal kingdoms like the Yucu Dzaa and Guisisi Gui emerged as powerful rivals to the Aztatecs.

Aztatlan's technology and merchants brought about the beginning of widespread coastal trade, reorienting markets and economies across Mesoamerica toward the coast from the 13th century onward. Newfound wealth turned once-weak coastal states like Guisisi Gui emerge into strong regional contendors, letting them battle powerful neighbours like Yucu Dzaa and the Zapotecs of Zaachila on even footing.

By the late 13th century, a few travelers came from even further afield, drawn by this concentration of wealth and cultural exchange. A century before the great Chimu Empire arose in South America, sailors such as those of the Manta city-states like Jocay paved the way for this South America-Mesoamerica trade, visiting the great cities of southern Aztatlan like Ixtapa and Tzalahua. The only non-Fusanian society to natively invent the sail, they sailed across the distance on balsa rafts that by the end of the 13th century developed outriggers in a parallel to Fusanian ship design. These merchants largely traded gold, but also brought rare goods like balsa wood, coca, llama wool, finely embroidered cloth, and prized spondylus shells.

Political shifts accompanied these technological and economic shifts. Clear centers emerged in each valley as city-states united their valleys. The loose confederations united into tight-knit kingdoms, with one city-state ruling a host of small lordships centered around a town or village which itself might rule smaller villages. If another large city in a valley existed, it was the port of the valley, ruled by a trusted relative of the king. These kings collected tribute from the many towns in their valley, and occasionally towns in minor valleys, but with few exceptions never ruled over the entirety of more than one valleys due to inevitable military opposition from neighbours.

Archaeologists refer to this period, that era from 1150 to 1300, as the Late Aztatlan culture, the culmination of the early Aztatlan culture in prior centuries. The golden age of Aztatec civilisation, it is marked by a uniformity in the economics, politics, and religion of the entire area brought about by the intense specialisation and international trade. The area reached new heights of population and wealth and commanded stunning influence across the Pacific Coast.

The greatest ports lay in southern Aztatlan, where they attracted pochteca from across Mesoamerica as well as merchants from northern Aztatlan seeking to buy goods like chocolate to trade in exchange for Fusanian goods. They possessed large manufactories producing goods from copper, bronze, gold, and silver, produced much in the way of jewelry, and exported salt into the interior of Mesoamerica. The largest cities might have populations of over 15,000 with the wealthiest city, Ixtapa, with its 20,000 people being practically unrivaled in size of any city on the Pacific Coast.

Northern Aztatlan lagged behind in wealth due to the poorer periphery and lands incapable of growing cacao and other tropical goods, although they grew much cotton and tobacco. Smaller, drier valleys served as important centers for growing subsistence crops, a much needed export to Aztatlan's cities. Their trade connections lay with the Chichimecs and Oasisamerica and to a degree, Fusania. Linguistically the region was more homogenous than southern Aztatlan, speaking mostly Cahitan languages, although at Chametla they spoke the Totorame language (an increasingly Cahitanised form of Cora). While Nahuatl was understood as elsewhere in Aztatlan, the primary trade language was known simply as Cahita and mostly blended the Cahitan languages of Guasave and Colhuacán.

During the 12th century, Guasave became the wealthiest city of Northern Aztatlan due to its rulers exploiting its proximity to Fusania and Oasisamerica. The city exported local shells, copper bells, and imported Mesoamerican goods in exchange for turquoise and exotic goods from Fusania. By the early 13th century, Guasave became undoubtedly the wealthiest city of northern Aztatlan, surpassing rivals like Colhuacán and even Chametla. Perhaps 15,000 people lived in Guasave, drawn by the city's rare Fusanian goods.

Naturally, Guasave's merchants expanded northwards along the coast as they sought to seize more of both the shell trade and Fusania trade. The coastal towns of the Yoreme and Yoeme people (closely related Cahitan) submitted to Guasave's influence, and even the nomadic Kunke joined Guasave's growing confederacy. As elsewhere in Aztatlan, Guasave recognised local rulers (or in the case of the egalitarian Kunke, created a new class of wealthy elite) by tributing them exotic goods in exchange for tribute and rights to their community's resources.

This trading sphere practically controlled by Guasave brought about increasing intermarriage, settlement, and acculturation, pushing Aztatlan's borders north along the coast. At the behest of ambitious merchant clans, towns populated almost entirely by those from Guasave sprang up in the better watered lands of the Mayo and Yaqui Rivers and became sizable centers in their own right. Even further north, the port of Wahema formed around a Kunke camp and grew into a city of nearly a thousand people thanks to its sheltered bay and nearby mountains that made for a distinct landmark. Guasave colonisation expanded as far north as the village of Hakewiktoh around Acaguito Bay [14], these smaller communities thriving as trading posts for Kunke nomads.

These colonies faced challenges such as drought and conflicts with the Kunke or small-scale farmers and pastoralists in the hills, yet Guasave--or often Wahema's--military strength and mediation helped deter these conflicts. Typically the Aztatec merchants and nobles arranged alliances and strategic marriages with local elites and paid them off in goods. If these actions failed, they launched ruthless raids aimed at enslaving women and children and seizing livestock. The drought and epidemics of the 13th century brought hardship to these colonies and the Aztatecs responded through increased warfare against the Kunke that brought disaster to their people--of the 5,000 Kunke in 1200, perhaps only 1,000 survived by 1300.

Across the Gulf of Anquon lay the arid Chingan Peninsula, sparsely populated by nomadic hunter-gatherers and fishing cultures. Enterprising merchants from Guasave sought out these people for trading opportunities, in particular those further north who occasionally had rare South Fusanian goods like turquoise. While some trade in hides, shells, and slaves occurred, the main commodity was pearls. Guasave's merchants paid locals in food and occasionally live ducks or towey goats to dive for pearls. A few of these pearl diving camps evolved into permanent villages, sustained by pastoralism and food imports.

Towey goats appear in Aztatlan by around 1150, obviously imported from Oasisamerica and first appearing at Guasave. By the early 13th century, they were revolutionising local trade thanks to their capacity as draft animals. While it took 4-5 goats to carry as much as a single porter, the goats could live off the land, didn't take up valuable food resources, and worked for free. They became vital components of expeditions, with merchant clans who owned goats invariably outcompeting their rivals.

Towey goats increased the distinction between north and south Aztatlan. In the warmer, humid south, the goats suffered excess disease and remained restricted to imported prestige animals and meat sources. Yet northern Aztatlan possessed large flocks which they raised for meat, wool, and leather. The meat and milk gave better nutrition to their people and wool and leather became important exports. Their efficiency as draft animals allowed the northern Aztatlan cities to seize control over much of the land trade in the drier interior and north, forcing southern Aztatlan to totally reorient itself toward sea trade and trade with Mesoamerica.

Relations between Aztatec states were often poor--kings vigorously enforced their spheres of influence over their vassal villages and towns and dethroned any ruler who stepped out of line. They raided each others' valleys, burning villages and taking captives whom they sold as slaves or sacrificed to the gods. However, they rarely attacked major cities directly, as the fortifications proved too strong and the campaign season too short.

The Aztatecs fought in a mix of Mesoamerican and Chichimec fashion, using bows, slings, and atlatl darts before closing with obsidian-tipped spears and clubs. Because of the hot climate, armor tended to be simple pads meant to absorb blows. Elites signified their status with bronze spears and helmets and capes made from the pelts of jaguars or mountain lions. Because of their wealth, the Aztatecs often hired mercenaries to bolster their fighting power. These soldiers came from nearby regions and were paid in local goods, usually shells or in southerly areas cacao beans. The diversity of these mercenaries spanned as far as trade networks permitted, with Southern Aztatec armies full of Mixtecs, Tlapenecs, and Nahuas while Guasave's armies included many nomadic Kunke, Oasisamericans, and Haiyi.

The growth of the cities and increase of visiting pochteca brought about cultural changes and new styles within Aztatlan, including the introduction of Mesoamerican writing during the mid-13th century. It appears influenced by both the Central Mexican writing of Cholollan and the Mixtec system further south, areas often visiting and visited by the Aztatecs. In this era, Aztatec writing proved simple, vague, and limited, focused mainly on keeping records of goods and establishing geneologies (perhaps in response to various epidemics that caused disputes in ownership). Oral records remained supreme in telling the stories behind things.

Religiously, Aztatlan followed broadly Mesoamerican customs, albeit peculiar local forms. They followed typical rites of bloodletting and human sacrifice in the name of their gods such as local variants of Tlaloc, Quetzalcoatl, and especially the sun god Tonatiuh. The obscure ocean god Chalchiuhtlatónal (brother of the more famous water goddess Chalchiuitlicue, Tlaloc's consort) became patron of sailors and fishermen in Aztatlan and thus held a prominent cult while his father, who corresponded to South Fusanian Quaoar, was a feared god of floods who threatened to devour all the world's maize.

The local Quaoar ritual borrowed elements from his cult elsewhere yet became distinctly Mesoamerican. A group of twenty men (twelve priests and eight initiates) consumed sacred datura and danced themselves into a frenzy in a temporary shrine built in an open air temple. All men were ritually forbidden from consuming maize for one month prior. Much bloodletting was involved, placed in sacred chacmools. They gathered up humans and towey goats, gorging them on maize and tesguino (maize beer) for a month prior before placing them face down in a stream and slicing them open as they drowned. The priests sprinkled maize pollen in the stream, mingling it with the blood of the sacrificed people and animals. This offering sated Quaoar's desire for maize, stopping his floodwaters from ruining the crop.

Like Oasisamerica to the north, northern Aztatlan suffered extensively from the drought of the late 13th century, a drought which mostly spared rainier southern Aztatlan. Over-reliance on cotton farming brought about famine as the cotton harvest failed and farmers could not buy food. These famines and continued demands for cotton produced intense revolts that in some places depopulated vast swathes of river valleys and overthrew local dynasties. Migratory Chichimecs, their mobility aided by their flocks of towey goats, invaded the valleys and assumed control, using vast plundered wealth to become the new rulers of the dominant cities. The trade with Fusania and Oasisamerica dried up, bringing about further economic hardship.

Guasave's colonial sphere collapsed by 1280 thanks to drought, epidemic, the collapse of trade, and increasing conflict with the pastoralists in the hills. Those nascent settlements on the Anquon Peninsula fell abandoned except for limited trade for pearls, as did all settlements north of Wahema, which declined from a thriving port to a mere fishing village. Warfare tore Guasave's colonies, resulting in the secession of the cities on the Yaqui and Mayo which organised into the typical Aztatlan model of city-states dominating smaller towns. Two new kingdoms, Vahkom on the Yaqui and Huatabampo on the Mayo, rose by 1300 and became Guasave's foremost rivals, ending Guasave's monopoly on the Fusanian trade.

Of the challenges toward southern Aztatlan, invasion and epidemic figured more heavily than drought. The ports of Aztatlan played an important role in spreading the four epidemics--chickenpox, mumps, whooping cough, and seal flu--toward every corner of Mesoamerica during the 1240s and 1250s. Around 10% of the population died, bringing about severe social upheavals in the region as experienced elsewhere. In abandoned fields, migratory nomads from the mountainous interior with their flocks of towey goats settled in the lowlands, overtaking local populations. However, as a whole, southern Aztatlan weathered these crises much better due to the reduced effects of drought and sustained trade routes.

All of these events resulted in the sundering of the Aztatlan cultural area. The specialisation of the valleys collapsed and local manufactures took over. Food crops replaced cash crops in many villages, and towey goat herding became dominant, especially in the north. Two new cultures emerged by 1300--in northern Aztatlan the Bácum culture (called after the Spanish name of Vahkom) emerges, characterised by Oasisamerican and Far South Fusanian influences, towey goat herding, and use of the Cahita language, while in southern Aztatlan the Ixtapa culture emerges, characterised by increased Mesoamerican influences, return to cash crop farming, use of Nahuatl, and extensive pyramid building.

Yet even as Aztatlan's golden era ended, the area remained critical. As the drought ended and a new era dawned in Oasisamerica and Fusania, Aztatlan was fated to recover and rise to new heights. With the increasing interconnection of the Americas with Mesoamerica at its center, Aztatlan's future looked bright as the great connecting node between so many separate and vibrant cultural realms.

Author's notes
Aztatlan (whose people are the Aztatecs, not to be confused with Aztlan, the mythical homeland of the Aztecs) is an interesting area, long appreciated as a connection point between Mesoamerican and the Southwest. Yet it isn't just a periphery or an outpost of Mesoamerica (as archaeologists long described it as), but its own set of cultural areas, broadly linked to both each other and the rest of northern Mexico, fading into the American Southwest and Mesoamerica depending on the direction one moves.

For reasons of time and space, I've chosen to focus mostly on the coastal trading cultures and have restricted the term "Aztatlan" to mean those, casting them as distinct from their neighbours in the hills and those further beyond in the rest of the Mexican north ("Chichimeca"). I've written about the region from a largely Fusanian/Oasisamerican perspective, due to the focus on the timeline. I extensively relied on Greater Mesoamerica: The Archaeology of West and Northwest Mexico as a source for this chapter, so if it doesn't sound overtly related to the changes brought about by this TL then it's summarizing modern theories on how this culture functioned.

I focused most heavily on Guasave as I've routinely mentioned that city and with its proximity to Fusania, it would be the most changed of any part of Aztatlan. Due to lack of time, I can't go into as much detail about Mesoamerica as might be incredibly interesting.

This chapter in particular owes a great deal of thanks to the TL here Land of Sweetness which is the only reason I've ever even heard of this part of Mesoamerica to begin with, along with pointed me in the right direction of sources. Aztatlan will naturally return in a much later chapter. My next entry will be a brief overview of the rest of Mesoamerica and probably also Central America and South America. It will serve as an introduction as to how that region functions TTL, although as this entry makes clear, sails are relatively new so the changes won't be as dramatic as you'd expect.

As always, thank you for reading!

[1] - Jikken's knowledge derives from common old Chinese (mostly Han Dynasty) and Buddhist texts (like Xuanzong's writings) available in Japan rather than more specialised knowledge a learned Chinese scholar of 1500 might have on India, Persia, or "Daqin" (the Roman Empire). Admittedly I'm not sure what a Japanese scholar of that era might have access to, but I think it's plenty plausible that Jikken has only encountered particular texts.
[2] - Gaiyuchul is describing chocolate and yaupon respectively using their ATL Japanese terms that derive from Purepecha (k'ekua) and Wakashan (qiyuuchsihii) respectively. I'll describe how yaupon arrives in Mesoamerica in a later chapter.
[3] - North Fusanians stereotypically associate maize with barbarians and due to improper understanding of nixtamalisation, believe it makes people weak. Worse, Mesoamericans eat insects, dogs, and other tabooed food among "civilised" North Fusanians that is typically associated with the Hillmen
[4] - Essentially akin to the medieval Norse belief Vinland (or Greenland) stretched as far south and east as Africa. Gaiyuchul believes it is like Alaska, whose coast indeed bends west, a fact known in Fusanian geographic knowledge
[5] - Referring to the Chimu/Chimor capital Chan Chan, where a well-traveled sailor would have knowledge how the sun differs in Aztatlan than, say, Chan Chan south of the equator. The "towey goats" Gaiyuchul refers to are of course llamas.
[6] - Gaiyuchul is referring to the division of Fusanian societies into phratries (Eagle, Wolf, Raven, Bear/Orca) of which clans and people are associated with. Two phratries are "allied" and opposite the other two--these distinctions determine marriage and kinship and are related to the dualistic beliefs found in Fusanian culture.
[7] - I'll use the OTL term for this, although I called the ATL Utes "Yuta" in previous chapters. There is of course plenty of variation in how outsiders (including scholars) spelled indigenous ethnonyms over time so it's plenty plausible.
[8] - It's been noted for decades the similarities in ceramics and other remains in northwest Mexico (including Aztatlan) and those of Ecuador, for instance like with contemporary Capacha and Machalilla cultures. Other shared cultural traits include features such as the distinctive shaft timbs.
[9] - The Chignahuapan is the Lerma-Santiago River in western Mexico
[10] - Aside from Guasave (a Hispanicised local toponym), these are Nahuatl forms of the names used by archaeologists. Guasave is OTL Guasave, Sinaloa, Culhuacan is Culiacan, Sinaloa, Chametla is near Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Amapa is OTL Amapa, Nayarit (a small town near Santiago Ixcuintla, in-between Chametla and Ixtapa), Ixtapa (not to be confused with Ixtapa, Guerrero) is today part of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Tomatlan is OTL Tomatlan, Jalisco, and Tzalahua is Manzanillo, Colima.
[11] - The OTL borders of Aztatlan based on archaeology, roughly from modern Manzanillo, Colima (Tzalahua) to Guasave in northern Sinaloa. Some archaeologists consider the Tomatlán valley the southern border. The north/south distinction appears vague and artificial OTL (although Guasave was certainly far poorer than, say, Tomatlán or Ixtapa) but TTL is more meaningful.
[12] - Chalchiuitl is better known by the Hispanicised name Chalchihuites among archaeologists--it was a large Chichimec trading center located in the modern town of the same name in Zacatecas. I should note that I will be using Nahuatl terminology instead of the Hispanicised form (i.e. "Tollan" and "Cholollan" instead of Tula and Cholula).
[13] - Guisisi Gui is Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, which was formerly inhabited by Huave people in the 12th century before their partial displacement by the Zapotecs
[14] - Wahema is Guaymas, Sonora and Hakewiktoh is Bahia Kino, Sonora, while Acaguito Bay would be the body of water itself (the latter a Hispanicised form)
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Sounds like 1500 is the point where serious trade links are just beginning to form between Japan and America. The start of something big I'm sure.
I wonder if an *Inca empire will arise. Interesting how the Andes were historically unified in such short time.
Chapter 81-The Sails of Paradise
"The Sails of Paradise"

The fishing villages along the Imaru that originated the vibrant cultures of Fusania came late to the development of civilisation in the New World. Far to the south in the exotic jungles and hills of Mexico, people farmed the earth and built grand cities so old that nature long since consumed them. In this land called Mesoamerica, the people long established elaborate cultures and customs that produced the oldest and most grand civilisation in the Americas, one that for outsiders from the Chichimecs to the Fusanians in later times to the Europeans and East Asians seemed blessed with unimaginable wealth.

In 343 AD, the very beginning of the Fusanian calendar, Mesoamerica entered a golden age of its civilisation. The silent stone heads of the so-called Olmecs and their forgotten cities buried in jungle long since gave rise to the grand urbanism of the Classic Maya cities like Yax Mutal, Ox Te' Tuun, or Chich'en Itza or those of the Zapotec like Dani Beedxe with their tens of thousands of people. It was the eve of the military expeditions of Jatz'om Kuy, or "Spearthrower Owl", who ruled over the city of Teotihuacan among the largest cities in the world in the late 3rd century with over 150,000 people [1]. Teotihuacan's great influence within Mesoamerica spread its stylings throughout the land and among many things embodied an early and glorious period of Mesoamerican civilisation.

Teotihuacan and these cities of the Mayans, Zapotecs, and others declined and fell into ruin at the end of the 1st millennium, yet left a consciously emulated legacy among the states left behind. The Maya world reorganised under the confederation called the League of Mayapan, while the Zapotecs weakened, their lands often subject to invasion by the rising force of the Mixtecs to the west. In the north, two powerful centers, Tollan and Cholollan competed for influence. In the 10th and 11th centuries, Tollan no doubt held the upper hand as it attempted to follow the path of Teotihuacan and intervened in politics as far away as the Mayan world.

The conflict between Tollan and Cholollan drew to an end in the 12th century. Drought and exhaustion of the poor soil brought bad harvests which led to internal tensions. At the same time, the Chichimec areas laying to the north suffered the same issues. A great wave of people migrated south and according to later chronicles, destroyed the city in 1179. The Toltec Empire thus collapsed and Cholollan established itself as the foremost center in central Mesoamerica. The Toltec legacy proved greatly important, as migrants from that area spread throughout Mesoamerica, spreading even to Cholollan as migrants from Tollan conquered the city. Connections to the Toltec legacy proved an essential part of power throughout Mesoamerica in centuries to come.

Cholollan's role as a power center likewise focused on legitimacy. Its grand pyramid (the largest by volume in the world) dominated the city and marked it as a religious cult site for Quetzalcoatl. Its two high priests, the defacto rulers of the city, used the city's status as a pilgrimage center to bolster the city's wealth and influence. Rulers of all ethnicities from distant altepetl traveled to Cholollan to be crowned by the two high priests as having received Quetzalcoatl's permission to rule an estate, thus granting them domestic legitimacy. However, Cholollan rarely intervened in the politics of distant nations unlike Tollan or Teotihuacan and formed no true empire.

Developments north of Mesoamerica ensured Chichimec migrations continued into the 13th century. Towey goat herding spread south from Oasisamerica alongside the farming of ricegrass and mesquites, producing a population surplus in the region. Tribes of mostly Nahua origin migrated south, accelerating the process of overwhelming the once-powerful Otomi and relatives [2]. The Otomi states were forced to accept these Nahua, who acculturated to the local customs as they remained under Otomi rule. These migrations brought down new altepetl just as often as they raised them up. As most of the migratory people were Nahuas, they accelerated the ongoing process of Nahuatlisation of the Otomi and other natives of the Valley of Mexico.

Other migrants include the ancestors of the Totonacs, who pushed toward the coast and assimilated the local people there. The Totonacs and their Chichimec allies conquered the city of Tajin [3], replaced by the new center of Cempoala. In the humid lowlands, the Totonacs abandoned their towey goats, although not related rituals--they frequently traded with their highland neighbours for towey goats.

Chichimec migrations introduced crops of Fusanian origin into Mesoamerica. Most notable was tehi, a fiber crop Mesoamericans employed in making mats, sacks, and sails, although they derided the Chichimec custom of wearing clothes from it. By the late 13th century, atlepetls of Chichimec origin cultivated semi-domesticated mesquites, using them as hedges and firewood. While they sometimes ground the seeds and mixed them with cornmeal, like elsewhere in Mesoamerica mesquite cultivation became closely associated with raising towey goats. Like in areas to the north, ricegrass was also frequently cultivated as animal feed.

Towey goat herding likewise spread into Mesoamerica during the 13th century, yet the hot, tropical climate restricted the spread of the goats due to issues of disease and jaguar predation. They clustered in dry, elevated areas and the cooler central highlands, and were only found in adjacent lowlands as animals to be slaughtered for food or used for sacrifices. A rich trade developed between highland areas and these lowlands for towey goat meat (as well as horns, bone, and fur), but Mesoamericans preferred towey goats purchased from abroad due to the nature of local towey goat breeds, which tended toward thin coats and rarely weighed more than 100 kg.

Because of how towey goats were introduced and traded and natural geography, goat breeding areas were fragmented. The Renaud Line terminated around the 20th parallel north, leaving only disjunct areas in the Pacific coastal highlands that raised the goats. Peoples like the Otomi, Mixtecs, and Tlapanecs were among those famed for their goat breeding, although the finest goats were considered to be raised by the Chichimecs, who were stereotyped as goat herders. The southernmost breeding populations appear to be small herds owned by the Kaqchikel and K'iche Maya at around the 15th parallel. Due to this fragmented range, goat breeds in Mesoamerica varied wildly in color and size, a facet noted by 15th century Fusanian explorer T'ashatlinhl Qwinishtis when he wrote "I walked five days and how strange did their towey goats appear...!"

As their largest herbivorous domesticate, Mesoamericans came to extensively rely on and value towey goats. They used them primarily for much needed protein in their diet. As pack animals, they were invaluable for the merchant class (pochteca), as despite the average pochteca towey goat only carrying 15-20 kg, the goats lived off the land and required no salary as a porter might. Because of their association with pochteca, towey goats often served as sacrifices for merchant-associated gods like the pochteca's Yacatecuhtli or Aztatec derived Chalchiuhtlatónal. Occasionally priests sacrificed towey goats at funerals of prominent nobles or rulers.

Return migrations and survivors of the Toltecs pushed the "frontier" of Mesoamerica north. The area north of Tollan, once populated by "barbarians", became "civilised" thanks to the emergence of pastoralism and drought-tolerant crops grown in South Fusania. Population centers emerged in this region populated by groups such as the Guamare, Caxcan, and Tecuexe, with Mesoamerican architecture like pyramids and ballcourts appearing alongside it. While many people remained pastoralists, moving around with their flocks of towey goats and ducks, they allied with new farming groups in villages. Both groups paid tribute to increasingly powerful rulers in urban centers, where lived wealthy nobles and merchants whose lifestyle was indistinguishable from that of the Nahua elites they emulated.

Other Fusanian crops like omodaka and water amaranth arrived from the northwest in the 13th century, spread from the Patayans by enterprising traders from Aztatlan. These were often grown by the Chichimec cultures of the Chignahuapan River and Lake Chapala such as the Tecuexe, where the effort to cultivate these crops helped establish the roots of the powerful Kingdom of Chapallan in the late 13th century. The Nahuas and other peoples rarely growing it even within the lake-inundated Valley of Mexico, but the Purepecha of Lake Patzcuaro frequently grew these Fusanian crops. Their cultivation, along with an influx of Nahua refugees from the Valley of Mexico, may have been responsibe for the appearances of chinampa-style agriculture on Lake Chapala and especially Lake Patzcuaro, the heartland of the Purepecha Empire.

Aside from tehi, ricegrass was likely the most important Fusanian domesticate. Closely associated with towey goat herders, it spread south from Oasisamerica and Aridoamerica by the 12th century. As it tolerates degraded and dry land, ricegrass farming became a common activity in northern Mesoamerica, feeding ample flocks of towey goats and other animals favored by the Nahua rulers. The Tecuexe and other Chicimecs often ate ricegrass as well, much as their even less settled northern neighbours did. Mountainous areas once inaccessible to farming transformed into productive lands integrated well into the Mesoamerican economy.

The so-called "frontier of Mesoamerica" expanded northwards in the northeast as well. The local people of this region, called by the Nahua the Tamaulipecs (from their Huastec name), existed as small-scale horticulturalists most of history [4]. In the 13th century however, the arrival of domesticated ricegrass and mesquites enabled a greater surplus of food and encouraged the adoption of irrigation and maize agriculture. They traded with towey goat-herding peoples in the mountains and Huastec sailors from the south, the latter particularly influential for their wealth. While the Huastecs considered them barbarians, they were appreciated for their trade in shells. The Tamaulipecs in turn emulated elements of Huastec culture and gladly received their merchants, constructing pyramids at sites like Ietemon, their largest city, and Tamapache, their main port [5]. Influenced by the Huastecs, they especially venerated the god Ehecatl, constructing the conical pyramids typically associated with him.

As the economic center of North America, Mesoamerica was well-connected to the outside world. Trade with South Fusania and Oasisamerica occurred in the northwest, facilitated by caravans of porters traveling over rough roads. Coastal trade linked Mesoamerica to the Caribbean, Central America, and even to a degree South America, carried out by rafts and dugout canoes. This model of trade altered in the 13th century--firstly, towey goats became widespread in mountainous areas, giving a Mesoamericans a pack animal, and second and most importantly, sailing became widespread throughout Mesoamerica.

How sailing spread into the Atlantic remains a matter of debate, but the best evidence suggests the technology first crossed the Isthmus of Tehuantepec via merchants in the early 13th century. Records indicate the Huave people of Guisisi Gui, in their search for allies against their bitter Zapotec and Mixtec rivals, established connections with the Olmecs [6] and Maya on the other side and formed alliances with the Chontal Maya kingdom of Potonchan and Olmec city of Coatzacoalcos. Colonies of Huave merchants with their wealth in gold settled in Potonchan and nearby coastal towns, transferring the concepts of sailing.

Sailing ships appear well-established by the end of the 13th century, supplanting previous seagoing canoes. They required less manpower and were easier to construct than previous ships while being faster and carrying more cargo. While the stylings of the designs appear distinctly Mayan, their construction and layout descend from the Aztatec chasimek. Like the chasimek, in this era these Mayan cargo ships were made of planks nailed or sewn together and measured up to 10 meters long, carrying around 20 tons of cargo.

With its early lead in shipbuilding and mercentile connections, Potonchan dominated the early phases of Caribbean trade in the late 13th century. They encountered a variety of native people like the Antilleans, who while poor by Mesoamerican standards eagerly sought the resources of Mesoamerica. In exchange for slaves and grain, Potonchan sold them much in the way of cacao, jade, cotton, gold, and silver. Their merchants settled among the Caribbean peoples, leading to the beginnings of cultural Mayanisation in this region.

Potonchan's lead lasted perhaps a generation, as the competition between Mayan merchants ensured the technology spread. By the late 13th century, numerous competitors from the League of Mayapan began with their own ventures into the Caribbean. Located much closer to the Caribbean Islands and bolstered with their continuing trade with Central America, they eroded Potonchan's monopoly with the aid of Coatzacoalcos, Potonchan's local rival. Namely, Potonchan shifted toward its natural role on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec as a place for goods from the Pacific to enter the Atlantic and toward linking the Huastecs and Totonacs to the north with the Mayan world.

At times, entire Mayan clans settled in the Caribbean because of famine, warfare, or politics, starting with the initial Mayan settlements among the Guanahatabey of western Cuba. These settlements, along with the Mayan settlement of the Te Ac Islands, mark the initial Mayan thrusts into this region in what would become the beginning of a new Mayan golden age [7]. The Guanahatabey people, small in number, eventually grew tired of Mayan domination and revolted around 1280. Although they initially overwhelmed the Mayan settlers and captured a few towns thanks to Mayan disunity, their defeat in the field thanks to Mayan mercenaries marked their permanent defeat, for the Mayans built higher walls around their cities from that point forth, walls too high for the Guanahatabey--or most people of the Caribbean--to besiege.

Sailing opened the way into Central America as well. On the Pacific coast, the Mixtecs, Huave, and Mayans dominated, while on the Atlantic the Mayans, Huastecs, Totonacs, and Olmecs led the way. Continuing earlier land trade routes and canoe trade routes, the advent of sailing greatly increased this commerce. In exchange for the wares of Mesoamerica, the Central American peoples exported primarily gold and secondary products like exotic animals and tropical birds. However, it was not solely a colonial relationship--clever Central American peoples used the merchants and their links as means of enhancing their power.

The jumping off place for this was the city of Chel Ha, allegedly founded by twin brothers fleeing a civil war in Mayapan in the year 1263. From this city, one might navigate to the vast Lake Cocibolca and from there cross the hills to its twin city Kanchel on the Pacific [8]. Legend holds the Mayans founded thirteen colonies (the nucleus of the future League of Thirteen Cities in Isthmian Central America) between 1263 and 1303, although the actual number may be higher or even slightly lower depending on the dating of archaeology. Many of these colonies were also twin cities, such as Tepepen and Tikai [9] (also known as Panama after its local non-Maya name), although not every port had a corresponding city on the opposite shore.

Certainly these merchant expeditions reached South America. In addition to invigorating the ancient trade between people like the Manta and western Mesoamerica, connections with Atlantic South America also strengthened. South America operated as a vast frontier for the Mayan sailors, not well-explored in the 13th century due to producing much the same goods as Central America (namely gold) and the sheer distance. Yet for adventurous merchants increasingly shut out of markets in the Caribbean or Central America by more organised competition, it offered seemingly endless opportunities.

These expeditions reached far into the north as well. The Huastecs continued their ancient trade with those at the Rio Bravo, trading Mesoamerican goods for shells and towey goats, an animal not raised in Huastec lands. The increase of mobility and trade permitted with the arrival of sailing allowed the foundation of Huastec colonies at the mouths of the Guaycona River and the Rio Bravo [10] by 1300.

Intrepid Mayan sailors followed natural winds in the Gulf of Mexico and sailed across to the northern shore by the late 13th century. There they encountered the peoples of the Gulf Misebian culture. These peoples were fine sailors themselves (using primitive Fusanian-derived sails), although largely kept to the network of waterways and bayous along the swampy coast. Because the Misebi River acted as a natural highway for goods from the interior, the Mayans purchased the pelts of bison and towey goats (and the occasional live towey goat) along with slaves and finished copper and jade artifacts in exchange for the many wares of Mesoamerica. Native goods included tehi and slaves. A few goods came from as far away as Fusania, as evidenced by gilded shells of Wayamese manufacture discovered at the Mayan port of Cozumel.

However, the most important good became something else entirely. It appears that by the end of the 13th century, the Mayan gained a taste for yaupon. This herb related to European holly or South American yerba mate contains caffeine. While the Mayans ritually and medicinally used yaupon, the drink's popularity likely came from sailors sneaking bits of it to drink and discovering that yaupon was plenty potent on its own. It proved a helpful companion on long sea voyages, ensuring that common names in Mesoamerica invariably derive from terms literally meaning "keep-awake medicine"--calques of this spread as far as Fusania. Trade for yaupon dominated Mayan interactions with the Misebians from that time forth.

In all places, sailing spread with the arrival of the Mesoamerican merchants, adopted by local peoples wherever they felt the need. The primitive sails and sailing ships of the Gulf Misebians for instance quickly gave way to Mesoamerican-style sailing craft. These Mayan sailcraft proved especially popular in the Caribbean, linking together the chiefdoms of the Antilleans [11] and Caribs and sparking an economic revival in this region.

The arrival of sailing produced greater economic ties between coastal cities, and with these ties came links between the nobles of these cities that sparked political consolidation. Acting together as one confederated unit allowed for more efficient economic relations and dealings with outsiders. For ambitious rulers, using dynastic ties as a means to usurp control over a nearby wealthy city proved a potent lure.

The epidemics of the 13th century naturally hastened these political ties through sparking warfare. The four diseases--chickenpox, mumps, whooping cough, and seal flu--emerged in Mesoamerica in the middle of the century. Spread by the ever increasing trade and already dense population, they struck down between 800,000 and 1.5 million people in the 1240s by some estimates (around 5-10% of the population), causing local famines. Only the milder form of seal flu they received compared to Fusania prevented it from being any worse, yet the establishment of endemic influenza ensured the potential for deadlier avian influenza in the future.

Mesoamericans attributed all manner of causes to this epidemic. Worship of the god Xipe Totec spread widely from the heartland of that cult on the Gulf Coast, spread by the wide connections of the sailors there. Some blamed the merchants for spreading disease, resulting in closed cities and persecutions against their class that included mass sacrifices to Xipe Totec. While these states often suffered from revenge raids to avenge slaughtered merchants, the effect on commerce was undeniable. It became an increasingly dangerous profession, one which required the backing of military might lest enemies use epidemic as an excuse to rob or slaughter merchants.

This military might took the form of an increasingly militarised Mesoamerica. Pochteca spent increasing amounts of money hiring armed guards for when city-states refused to provide them. By 1300, associations of these guards started growing into powerful mercenary companies that fought as professional, year-round soldiers, a marked departure from former Mesoamerican practice. Like mercenaries anywhere, these warriors took part in ample intrigues of their own, raising up and dethroning rulers as needed.

Their association with the merchant class granted mercenary companies a wide range of contacts. Often they sent men to solicit services in cities their guards visited on journeys. Because of this, evidence of Mesoamerican weaponry (namely obsidian tipped spears) appears as far dispersed as South America, the lower Misebi, and Patayan cities, although it is likely these represent armed bodyguards hired for their exotic weapons and origin rather than large-scale mercenary deployment, in particular those before the 14th century.

These developments--epidemic, sea trade, protection of merchants, and mercenaries--combined with sheer ambition and economic forces to produce a chaotic political environment. Coastal states especially grew thanks to the ease at logistics. For instance, Potonchan gathered a sizable empire, while the Totonac state of Cempoala and its allies consolidated from their conquest of Tajin and subdued much of the Totonacapan, even defeating its major inland rival Papantla, checked only by their Huastec rival Tochpan to the north [12]. In the Maya world, the powerful kingdom of Chactemal arose as a rival of the inland-focused League of Mayapan while Potonchan faced increased competition from the Olmecs.

Even smaller states took advantage of this, such as the Triple Alliance of Coatzacoalcos, an alliance of three Olmec towns on the Gulf coast [13]. Ruled by Nahua migrants in the Isthmus of Tehuantepe, the majority of people spoke Mixe-Zoque languages and thus might claim descent from the still-unknown cities deep in the jungle. Troubled by powerful Chontal Maya rivals and especially the nearby city of Toztlan, the Olmecs of Coatzacoalcos, Chacalapan, and Olutla and started muscling trade from their foes. Their sailors proved especially intrepid, eager to find routes to avoid dealing with the Mayans and just as eager to fight the Mayans even far from home. It seems like Coatzacoalcos discovered the reef of Colotlah [14], an isolated desert island useful for fishing or refuge from hurricanes--or in later times, piracy. Yet their greatest power was religion--as the place the god Quetzalcoatl sailed to the east, the cult of Quetzalcoatl attracted numerous pilgrims who brought many gifts.

Interior states consolidated as well, banding together against attacks from pastoralist Chichimecs and from local rivals. While markedly inferior to the advance in logistics permitted by sailing, towey goats allowed for more efficient armies that required less porters (and thus required less food). Most notable among these was the Tepanec state in the Valley of Mexico centered at Azcapotzalco, whose rapid rise at the end of the 13th century aided by alliances with Chichimec tribes such as the Aztecs startled the high priests in Cholollan. Although Cholollan backed Tepanec rivals, these efforts seemed to always fail thanks to Tepanec tenacity and their logistical skill that allowed them to maintain lengthy campaigns and sieges.

Other notable states included Patzcuaro in the west, founded by the Purepecha warlord Hiretiticatame--his lineage, the Uacúsecha ("Eagles"), laid the groundwork for a great empire. However, in the 13th century it merely consisted of a core around Lake Patzcuaro with scattered tributaries such as Cuitzeo, Zacapu, and most crucially the copper mines of the lower Balsas controlled by their tributary of Urichu. Nowhere near the famously centralised and imperial state it became in later centuries, this early Purepecha state suffered occasional civil wars and Chichimec incursions, especially in the aftermath of the epidemics.

Meanwhile, the epidemics and shifting brought unsettling tension to established states, bringing about internal disorder. In the League of Mayapan, the sea trade made port cities like Sisal and Dzilam (to say nothing of the league's less connected members like Chakán Putum, Ekab, or Chactemal) incredibly wealthy and brought resentment against the demands of the capital. Already the state suffered issues from the late 12th century ruler Hunac Ceel centering the league on Mayapan at the expense of Chichen Itza and Uxmal, and the 13th century brought renewed revolts from the prominent Tutul Xiu lineage. Although the dominant Cocom lineage temporarily suppressed the Tutul Xiu, Mayapan became dangerously unstable, the matter made all the worse by epidemics which killed over 100,000 people in the region. Most of the league was effectively autonomous and paid only a token tribute to Mayapan out of concerns for tradition and ideology.

The wealthy coastal state of Ekab became the first to secede, leaving Mayapan in 1283 due to economic frustration and perhaps an omen determined by Maya calendar cycles [15]. The most prosperous part of the league, Ekab and its capital island of Cozumel withdrew from Mayapan and sacrificed their tribute collectors, sparking a war. Ekab perhaps could have destroyed the league then and there if not for the arrival of mercenary forces fighting for Mayapan who defeated Ekab's forces in battle and subdued other revolts within Mayapan. Ekab itself faced an internal revolt, as its two largest cities, Cozumel and Tulum (backed by Coba, another prominent center), argued over the spoils of the conflict. But because of threats from both Mayapan and Chactamel, the cities settled through strategic marriages and treaties that arranged the republican political structure of what historians term the Ekab Republic [16].

With the elements from the north increasingly integrated into Mesoamerica and the Americas developing all around it, the future looked bright for this heartland of American civilisation. The wealth of Mesoamerica and power of her states would continue to grow in the coming centuries, growing to the most incredible of heights as they continued innovating as they had before. Yet as the 13th century suggested, this growth and wealth would be fraught with bloodshed as the people of the region explored the possibilities brought to them by the new economy being built.
Author's notes​

This chapter gives a brief overview of Mesoamerica TTL as well as Central America (the so-called "Intermediate Zone" that tends to be ignored) and the Chichimec realm. It is very hard to cover the entire region in a single entry, but somehow I think I managed.

Once again, I must thank the TL Land of Sweetness for both influence and good research material. If this entry feels similar, it's because I used similar sources and because the conclusions drawn seem natural. Yes, Mesoamerica did have a lot of sea trade, especially the Mayans (i.e the Mayan cities of Ekab in Yucatan did indeed trade with Central America as far south as Nicaragua). Giving better shipbuilding and sails to Mesoamericans would very likely turbocharge the already-impressive economy of Postclassic Mesoamerica, letting us have things like a Mayan revival.

Other elements of this chapter are OTL--Mesoamerica was an incredibly diverse place and a civilisation we have surprising amounts of documentation for, even if its often incredibly obscure (looking especially at the Postclassic Olmecs). The "Mesoamerican frontier" is also an OTL concept--OTL it retreated south with the fall of the Toltecs (and other places it never reached like in most of Tamaulipas), but TTL towey goat herding and hardy South Fusanian crops keep it an integral part of civilisation and even spread influences to adjacent peoples.

Obviously Mesoamerica will be revisited in a later chapter, probably several given the 14th century is where things start to get very interesting, both OTL (start of the Aztec and Purepecha Empires, etc., I wanted to put in more of the latter especiallly) and especially TTL. But the next chapter will be more small-scale and focus on the Great Plains and their emerging role as a link between all the diverse regions of North America, although it might wait a while as I finish some maps. As always, thanks for reading!

[1] - The first three are Tikal, Calakmul, Chichen Itza, based on their likely Classic era names, while the latter is the Zapotec name for Monte Alban (likely not its Classic era name). Regrettably, Teotihuacan's original name remains unknown, although it may have simply been a cognate of "Tollan" in whatever language its people spoke (possibly an Otomi language). Jatz'om Kuy was likely a ruler of Teotihuacan, but the name is what the Mayans called him
[2] - The Otomi were likely the dominant people of the Valley of Mexico and adjacent areas as late as the 13th century, but Nahua migrations had been ongoing for centuries, probably to at least the time of Teotihuacan
[3] - El Tajin in Veracruz. The original name is unknown, but it was likely not built and ruled by the Totonacs--Tajin was its Totonac name, and the Totonacs may have played a role in its downfall
[4] - I will use "Tamaulipecs" as a catch-all for agricultural groups (unlike OTL, all Tamaulipecs TTL are agricultural to some degree) of mostly-unknown affinity (all are very poorly recorded due to their quick destruction by the Spanish) who lived north of the Huastecs and "Coahuiltecans" for those north of them in far north Tamaulipas and south Texas who TTL are pastoralists. I may give the latter their own entry at some point, but now is too early in the TL to bother IMO.
[5] - Ietemon is El Sabinito, an archaeological site in Tamaulipas while Tamapache is Soto de Marina, Tamaupilas (I used the Huastec exonym they might be best known by, as the indigenous languages of central and northern Tamaulipas are essentially unknown)
[6] - Not to be confused with the more famous and much older Olmec culture, these Olmecs lived in the same region (modern southern Veracruz) and gave their name to the Olmec culture. Mostly speakers of Mixe-Zoque languages, they are likely descendents of the old Olmecs although by the Postclassic some Mixtecs and Nahuas lived there
[7] - Te Ac is the Cayman Islands, specifically Grand Cayman. IOTL it was practically uninhabited before the arrival of European colonialism.
[8] - Chel Ha is San Juan/Greytown, Nicaragua, Lake Cocibolca is Lake Nicaragua, Kanchel is San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
[9] - Tepepen is Portobelo, Panama and Tikai is Panama City, Panama. "Thirteen colonies" has nothing to do with those Thirteen Colonies--rather, the number thirteen has deep associations with the Maya calendar (i.e. the Short Count of thirteen k'atuns used by the Postclassic Maya)
[10] - The Guaycona is the Nueces River, named for a coastal tribe of Coahuiltecans (also spelled "Guaycone") who would have prospered from Huastec trade. Granted, the Guaycona are only attested from one source in the 16th century as living there, but given the obscurity of this region, we will assume they are an ATL Coahuiltecan group lived there instead.
[11] - I will use "Antillean" as TTL's term for the Taino people of the Greater Antilles, as Taino is a misnomer based on the Taino term for "noble" (nitaino).
[12] - Tochpan is a more Nahuatl spelling of Tuxpan, Veracruz. I will use the Nahuatl names when I cannot track down a more appropriate one
[13] - Triple alliances were fairly common in Mesoamerica, perhaps because of various mythological connotations
[14] - Colotlah is Scorpion Reef, a small desert island off the coast of the northern Yucatan
[15] - 1283 is the ending of a cycle of 13 k'atuns used for the Maya Short Count. Ekab is the name for the region of the northeast of the Yucatan Peninsula (including Cozumel)--it was an OTL unit of the League of Mayapan.
[16] - Into the 16th century, Ekab apparently had no single halach uinik (king) and was ruled by a council of batabs and halach uiniks who ruled individual places. Thus I think "republic" is an appropriate term.
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Chapter 82-Caravans of Commerce
"Caravans of Commerce"

In the middle of the bright civilisations of Fusania, Mesoamerica, Oasisamerica, and the Misebi lay a vast expanse devoid of trees. Called the "Great American Desert" by some, a mostly featureless plain spread out in all directions between the eastern and northern forests and western mountains, punctuated only by the occasional canyon, verdant river valley, or hills and tablelands. Yet for the people of this emptiness, it was their home, a place where they made their living off the bounty of the land and as time passed, the goods of others.

Like deserts elsewhere in the world, the Great Plains of North America were a feature not to be avoided, but crossed. Because people wanted to cross these harsh lands, they needed the aid of locals who naturally used it as an opportunity for profit. By the end of the 12th century, these crossings became increasingly common as trade and economies boomed throughout North America. It seemed the people of the Plains always had some unique good from far away--for merchants of Oasisamerica, Fusania, Mesoamerica, or the Misebi, even if the people of the Plains stopped exporting their valuable bison pelts, they'd still trade with them out of desire for these unique goods.

The gateway to these plains lay in the American Divides, controlled since the late 1st millennium by Dena tribes who gradually pushed south. Termed the Northern Divides Culture (1000 - 1300), this Dena culture stretched over 1,500 kilometers from the southern limits of the Great Trench to the headwaters of the Rio Bravo ranged nearly to the headwaters of the Rio Bravo at the height of their power and influence in the early 13th century. They extracted tolls from travelers and traded in their herds of towey goats and reindeer for the goods of nearby areas. Notoriously they often raided villages or even abducted travelers and enslaved them in their gold and silver mines, but like practically all Dena, these peoples held to a specific code of honour and reserved this harsh treatment only for those who broke their laws [1].

The most famous of these Dena peoples was the Tsetihen (or Sechihin), the masters of the Divides, yet other Dena practiced the Northern Divides Culture as well out of either ancestry of necessity. Tribes often split from the Tsetihen out of either opportunity or warfare and migrated as far south as the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, becoming the southernmost reindeer herders in the world. They too set up confederacies in the American Divides, extorting peoples on either side for passage while conducting mutually profitable trade.

The only non-Sechihinic group associated with Northern Divides Culture were the Tsokanen Dena, who arrived to the northern High Plains from further north around 1100. Once rivals of the Sechihin, the Tsokanen drove off Tsetihen allies like the Plains Salish and Plains Dena. Yet the Tsokanen themselves split, with one tribe--the Inde--allying with the Tsetihen and migrating into the mountains. The remainder of these Dena stayed in the High Plains.

East of the divides lay the High Plains, a mostly featureless land pockmarked by occasional canyons and tablelands. The dry land, continental climate, and generally poor soil made farming a challenge, especially in the north where the native peoples (mostly the Ktanakha and Tsokanen Dena) maintained only small irrigated gardens of river turnip, squash, and tehi that supplemented their ample livestock. The people of the northern High Plains raised reindeer and towey goats, using them to assist in hunting bison, their dominant industry.

A few permanent towns existed that facilitated trade fairs frequented by the Tsetihen and people further east like the Rumahkaki or Sahnish. These might have permanent populations of a few hundred people, but hosted thousands seasonally. Located in choice bottomlands along the upper reaches of major rivers, the oligarchic councils who ruled these towns derived their legitimacy (and often the town's very existence as a trade fair site) to possession of sacred objects. If invaders looted the objects from the town, this typically meant the abandonment of the settlement and relocation of the trade fair elsewhere.

Trade with nearby Fusania and Oasisamerica naturally brought the local people great wealth, as they shipped goods from the Misebians and Mesoamericans brought from far downstream. Local goods included bison pelts and occasionally their livestock, reputed for their hardy nature. Canoes dominated this trade, even on the silty and shallow rivers like the Nebrasque [2], with locals hired as pilots for the canoes of outsiders. Some relatively large canoes were manufactured by the Tsetihen and Rumahkaki as prestige items--while impractical for navigation on all but the upper Nisatcha, these large dugout canoes possessed elaborate prows and even sails.

The southernmost High Plains cultures, consisting of groups of Caddoan-speakers and at the fringes, the Tonkawa people, stood out from these other groups. Influenced by the Puebloan cultures to their west, they built similar houses of stone and mortar full of innumerable rooms and even underground shrines similar to the Puebloan kivas. The labour involved ensured these functioned as permanent settlements, some of which at their height in the 13th century aggregated to over 1,000 people like the city of Nanerhirarih in the Southern High Plains [3].

As with Oasisamerica, the spread of towey goats this far south starting in the late 12th century proved essential in invigorating this area. With the goats allowing better logistics in trade, hunting, and farming, the population greatly benefitted. Dung from the goats, their pelts, and their meat all enabled an increase in population density and prosperity in an otherwise inhospitable region.

The success of the Northern Plains cultures since the 11th century owed much to their adoption of Fusanian crops and crop rotation systems. More tolerant to cold than maize and more nutritious, omodaka served as the staple crop alongside Vinland rice and prairie turnips (although the latter took two years to mature). However, their drawback included the demand for water which left them at risk of floods and droughts, both common in the northern Plains.

By the 13th century, the Rumahkaki people at the edge of the High Plains solved this through increasing construction of wells, giving them the nickname "Well-Builders" they're most commonly recognised by. From the 13th to 17th centuries, the Rumahkaki dug thousands of wells that ranged from wells serving a typical household of 30-40 people to massive communal wells. A complex and communal process, the Rumahkaki dug their wells by hand, lining them either with branches and wood or for the communal wells, fired mudbrick.

The Rumahkaki incorporated many religious aspects into their wells. They believed half of all Rumahkaki who would ever live still lived underground where their people emerged from. Tradition claims that during a drought, a powerful Rumahkaki chief dreamed of his kinsmen who lived in these villages who offered to share their water with the people on the surface. In return, they requested the Rumahkaki share their own wealth with them. Should the Rumahkaki do so, they would not only keep providing them with pure water but also pray alongside them for the rains to be ample.

Thus, every well in Rumahkaki country (and to a degree among other northerly Siouans who adopted these rituals) served as a shrine. Each Rumahkaki house (a large earth lodge inhabited by several related families) possessed its own well, beside which older women buried seeds of omodaka, sunflowers, and Vinland rice wrapped in sacred bundles. Men buried carefully prepared skulls of hunted animals like bison and deer and domesticated animals like reindeer and towey goats. Aside from food, the Rumahkakis sacrificed tools like bows, plows, and animal collars.

Each Rumahkaki village also possessed a communal well which the community built itself around. For the largest Rumahkaki cities like Manhanksii [4], the defacto capital of the state historians term the Rumahkaki Confederation, which might have over 2,500 residents (and many visitors passing through), these might be incredible large and deep structures that resembled temples with the many niches in which people placed offerings. The largest--and oldest--Rumahkaki well lay south of Manhanksii at the town of Awigakha [5] and by 1300 reached its maximum depth of around 10 meters deep and could host over a dozen people at once gathering water or making offerings.

Likely the construction of this well and other communal wells served as a status symbol for the Rumahkaki elite, a method of showcasing their power in much the same way as the great mounds of the Misebians or water control projects of the Wayamese. Through this means they helped create and legitimise the urban society that aggregated as the best response toward both newfound wealth and especially raids from the enemies the Rumahkaki faced in both the west and the south. However, like many Plains peoples, the Rumahkaki lacked a single ruler or concept of nobility and instead governed themselves through oligarchic councils based on acquired wealth and status.

The amount of labour the Rumahkaki put into their wells relates to the wealth of the Northern Plains in this era. Because the Nisatcha River, the most important trade route, passed through their territory, they linked the increasingly wealthy Misebian cities to the riches of Fusania. Rumahkaki merchants owned large canoes they used to undertake lengthy voyages as far as the High Plains to the trade fair at the town of Naalintso, located at the Great Falls of the Nisatcha and the requisite portage [6]. They exchanged numerous goods, from local livestock and bison pelts to exotic wares from Fusania and the Misebian peoples to shells from both Gulf and Pacific. At these meetings, they forged links that invited merchants to their own communities, creating the great trading network of the northern plains.

North of the Rumahkaki lived the various Innu tribes and easternmost Dena of the southern fringe of the boreal forest. Primarily reindeer herders, they integrated themselves into southern economies for the numerous raw goods they traded. To the Rumahkaki, the Dena and Innu possessed an incredible wealth in both their herds of reindeer and moose, their precious stones and metals, and their timber--all served as valuable goods exchanged in Rumahkaki markets. They typically traded in the winter thanks to the mobility of their reindeer sleds, ensuring the markets of the northern Plains remained well-stocked year round.

By the end of the 13th century, an even more valuable commodity emerged from Innu lands--tin. A rarity in much of North America, the rugged Vinlandic shield produced this rare metal which Fusanians valued for its ability to produce high quality bronze. It appears that before the 14th century, this tin trade focused entirely on Fusania, being traded in the form of valuable stones to nearby Dena tribes. Towns sprung up near these tin mines, and as with their other mines, the Innu ensured a steady source of slaves from the south, generally purchased from the Rumahkaki or peoples of the Great Lakes.

The Southern Plains held the other great trading nations of this region, those people who inhabited the upper reaches of the southern tributaries of the Misebi like the Nigutcha and Pahateno [7]. Their development and wealth derived from their connection between the cities of Oasisamerica and the southern Misebians, a connection that became ever more important with the Mayans and other Mesoamericans prowing the Gulf. Their largest settlements, such as the location Spanish explorers called Etzanoa [8], might have over a thousand people, but seasonally thousands more.

Like their neighbours on the Southern High Plains, they spoke Caddoan languages and their cultures benefitted greatly from the introduction of towey goats. Their elites constructed ceremonial walls and ditches which enclosed their temples and houses, characteristically beehive-shaped lodges of wood and mud. They were voracious consumers of exotic goods, brought to them by traders from the west, east, and by the 13th century the increasingly important trade routes to the south.

The Central Plains benefitted less from this increasing wealth. The richest trade routes either crossed the southern Plains to Oasisamerica or followed the Nisacha, ensuring a vast section of the Plains remained a periphery. The local people, speakers of Caddoan languages very distantly related to those south of them, changed much less than those around them in the 1150 to 1300 period in terms of wealth or innovation. Unlike in the Southern or Northern Plains, no large centers emerged in the Central Plains, although the number of villages increased in this period.

Many local peoples tended toward isolationism and conservatism, hunting bison, tending their fields, or watching their flocks of towey goats in peace. They maintained some trade, but lacked the long-distance trading structures or emphasis on long-distance contacts found in surrounding cultures. Outsiders did come to them, however, mostly merchants from the Central Plains Misebian culture to the east centered around the city of Arikiritsiki [9].

Others in the Central Plains took advantage of the wealthy lands around them and sought expansion. Raiding villages brought much plunder, from livestock to slaves to food stores, all of which could be traded to other villages in exchange for even more wealth. Groups which adopted these strategies gradually migrated northwards, drawn primarily by the wealth of the Rumahkaki. As the climate dried and cooled at the end of the 13th century, these conflicts became increasingly bloody. Many towns in this region built increasingly large fortifications such as those fortifications at Awigakha or the Sahnish town of Nakaakahtakha [10].

At the southernmost area of the Plains, the flat expanse faded into a series of canyonlands and hills. With generally poor soil, agriculture never became much of a factor in this area, and the people instead focused on gathering local resources, namely groves of semi-managed mesquite and pecan and hunting bison. Ethnically speakers of Uto-Aztecan and Tanoan languages [11], these groups lived in small villages of a few dozen people and were best known as traders. They acted as intermediaries between the Mesoamerican colonies on the Gulf, trading centers on the Rio Bravo, and especially the pueblos of Oasisamerica. Like other groups, their lives became easier with the introduction of towey goats from the west, although the hot, humid climate of the area ensured their goats were fairly small.

No matter their location, these Plains villages and towns existed in a state of environmental fragility. Located in river basins amidst the endless expanse of the Plains, they were excessively vulnerable to flooding, deforestation, and soil exhaustion, causes which tended to feed into each other. All of the communities of the Plains developed ways of mitigating this, typically a heavy reliance on biofuel and fertiliser (dung from bison and domesticated animals). Wood was excessively valuable, often cut by hunters on long-distance voyages or purchased from traders to the east or far north. Grazing of goats and reindeer occurred almost exclusively away from these areas to preserve the environment for human use, which in the worldview of local people was seen as avoiding spiritual pollution of the river.

Yet none of these efforts were enough--often villages were forcibly abandoned or otherwise relocated to a nearby location on the river. This became especially common during the long droughts in the 13th century which as in other parts of North America proved immensely destructive. Cities like Nanerhirarih fell abandoned for decades as a result of these droughts, the people diminishing in number and often migrating elsewhere where they clashed with neighbours.

Epidemic took its toll on the Plains in this era. Unlike Mesoamerica or much of Fusania, the low population density prevented disease from evolving into an endemic status. The greater reliance on pastoralism and hunting ensured epidemic carried a greater propensity to cause famine (and thus increase the severity of the illness) From the arrival of the first epidemics in the 1210s, disease struck the Plains once every generation or so, killing as much as 15-20% of the population. However, the epidemics brought surprisingly beneficial side effects--villages often moved after epidemics and disease kept the population in check, mitigating the destruction of the fragile environment where the bulk of the population resided.

The drought and warmer climate of the 13th century impacted the American Divides as well. Less snow in the winter damaged the great sledborne trade while increased wildfires in the summer destroyed useful food sources for humans and animals. Epidemic and famine diminished both their population and that of their allies, provoking a great increase in Tsetihen hunting on the Plains. To further regain their wealth, it seems the Tsetihen increased the size of their herds and began aggressively expanding their grazing land, further provoking conflict.

All of these events culminated in perhaps the most monumental event in this region--the destruction of the Tsetihen Dena. From Fusania to the Upper Misebi to Oasisamerica, this event and its repercussions are noted in oral records yet also the written record of Fusania. Gaiyuchul for instance wrote in Saga of the Peoples of the World that the Tsetihen "...once looked down on all others from their peaks yet now others look down on them from the sky, for their ancestors of so many in the east grievously humbled them." The Shilkh historian Ch'iyikst remarked in 1507 that "their arrogance without limits brought together both barbarians and civilised in quelling their wicked ambition."

How the war began remains unknown--the Tsetihen claim they sought revenge for a hunter unjustly killed by the Ktanakha, while others claim Tsetihen raiders stole a fine reindeer with "the most brilliant of coats" from their people and their people decreed that the Tsetihen must pay. Regardless of the origin, the war likely began around 1250 and concluded by 1280. The Tsetihen Confederacy fought alone against every single neighbour, from the civilised Lake Qhlispe and Ieruganin city-states to the Ktanakha to the Plains Dena to the Mountain Salish.

The Tsetihen initially proved a powerful foe thanks to their martial prowess and homeland inaccessible to outsiders. They drove off the Tsokanen Dena to the east and defeated the Inde, who in response to being forced to fight for the Tsetihen called a council at Bear's Tower where they split into three groups, one whom allied with the Kiowa, the second who fled the mountains for the foothills of the plains, and the third who fled south and became the Navajo and Apache.

Yet the endurance of the Tsetihen failed over time as they continued their hostilities. Enemies learned their tactics and even the locations of their villages, where they attacked them on daring raids. Coordination between allies became better, with even bitter enemies like the Mountain Salish and Lake Qhlispe united. As the Tsetihen faltered, their great wealth in livestock and slaves was distributed amongst their enemies, spurring more raids. Village after village fell, where Tsetihen men were slaughtered and women and children faced slavery or death from exposure or starvation in the wilderness.

Legend tells the war ended as one by one, Tsetihen tribes either fled south or defected from their confederation to make separate peaces. Never again did the Tsetihen hold as much power, for the Mountain Salish or other Dena tribes claimed much of their homeland while the Ktanakha tribes became the effective rulers of the High Plains.

The Tsetihen War's impact on migrations brought chaos to the entirety of the Plains. The Rumahkaki faced invasions from the Plains Salish and Plains Dena, yet repelled them and pushed them south. While the Plains Salish remained on the central Plains and integrated as a distinct member of the Caddoan confederation centered at Arikiritsiki, the Plains Dena migrated even further east and alongside newfound allies on the Plains threatened the Misebians. Among the warring Misebian towns, the Plains Dena served as mercenaries, with their strong war tradition and unique (for the Misebians) fighting styles allowing them to achieve startling success in conflicts in the late 13th century.

As chaos filled the Misebian world from epidemic and warfare, the Plains Dena destroyed numerous Misebian villages and towns, especially those between the Taouique and Setchiaque Rivers [12], and settled amidst the abandoned areas. This region became their new homeland around 1300 as the Plains Dena gradually settled down and adopted some traits of Misebian culture, becoming the progenitors of the Eastern Athabaskans.

However, the Tsetihen War was not the only factor bringing chaos to the Plains in this era. The end of the 13th century marked a centuries-long shift toward a drier and cooler climate across much of the Plains. The existing cultures of the Plains entered this century challenged by not only the environment, but increasingly human factors. The increasingly rich trade brought by the revival of Fusania and Oasisamerica, an increasingly wealthy Misebian civilisation, and the rise of Mesoamerican trade provoked increasing struggle over who might control it. New groups of Dena migrated toward the plains from the mountains. This ensured the Plains solidifed its legacy as a land of displacement, bloodshed, and violence where people fought over the great wealth passing through.

Author's notes

As always, my focus on Fusania doesn't leave me with enough time to fully explore the various Plains cultures. I focused especially on the Rumahkaki because they are quite changed from their closest OTL equivalent, the Mandan, thanks to the Fusanian trade down the Missouri (TTL Nisatcha), as well as the Tsetihin War which reshapes pretty much every from Oasisamerica to the eastern edge of Fusania to the Misebians.

The OTL equivalents of these cultures are usually grouped under the term "Plains Villagers" (Northern/Central/Southern Plains Village cultures) which in turn have numerous regional variations I've alluded to in this section (i.e. Antelope Creek phase and Toyah phase in Texas). Most were indeed speakers of Caddoan languages, but in some areas (notably Texas) its unclear just who they were given that area was so dramatically reshaped in the 16th century by the Spanish and Apache.

I should note that the OTL Plains had been a shockingly violent place since long before the "Old West" era. Warfare and violence was a leading cause of death. Fragile environments in the river valleys and a climate prone to drought prompted displacement which often sparked warfare (one factor of many behind the wars between the natives and the US), although the worst of this warfare in precolonial times wasn't until the 14th century (as I alluded to at the end) with the onset of a drier, colder period. Adding an even greater number of migrants (more people migrating from the west) and an even greater economic motive (long-distance trade and herds of animals) gives an instant recipe for conflict.

As for my next entry, I will probably cover the Upper Misebian culture, TTL's version of the Oneota culture in OTL Minnesota and the Great Lakes. I am also working on maps of ATL California (South Fusania) and Oasisamerica. As always, thank you for reading!

[1] - I've mentioned the Tsetihen (I've also spelled it in Japanese ways as "Sechihin") several times, but for more details on the specific sort of economy and lifestyle they lead, see Chapter 40 (although that is mostly about their cultural relatives in the Grey Mountains [Cascades])
[2] - The Nebrasque is the Platte River of Nebraska, with the native name transcribed in French instead of English
[3] - These would be Alt-Antelope Creek phase people from the Texas Panhandle and adjacent parts of Oklahoma, while Nanerhirarih is the OTL Buried City near Perryton, TX
[4] - Manhanksii is the OTL site termed Double Ditch Village near Bismarck, ND, possibly called something like this (meaning "Yellow Earth") before its abandonment
[5] - I will use "Awigakha" as the ATL name for the prominent Mandan archaeological site at Huff, ND
[6] - The Nisatcha River is the Missouri River and Naalintso is Great Falls, MT
[7] - The Nigutcha River is the Arkansas River and the Pahateno River is the Red River of the South
[8] - The OTL Etzanoa located near Arkansas City, KS, inhabited a little earlier than OTL.
[9] - Arikiritsiki is the OTL Cloverdale site near St. Joseph, MO--as noted in chapter 19, the Central Plains Misebian is a wealthier version of the OTL Steed-Kisker culture
[10] - Nakaakahtakha is my ATL name for the Crow Creek site near Chamberlain, SD
[11] - These are alt-Toyah Phase people of Central Texas, influenced by the Jornada Mogollon from further west. Their descendents were the many groups mentioned by the Spanish in the 16th/17th centuries, who were amalgamated and destroyed due to Spanish colonialism and invasions by the Apache and Tonkawa--it's generally believed they included Tanoan and Uto-Aztecan speaking groups.
[12] - The Taouique River is the Chariton River of northern Missouri, a French form of the ATL Athabaskan name Tawikuekh ("river of towey goats", my own invention) while the Setchiaque River is the Des Moines River, from the ATL Athabaskan name Tseikhtsakuekh ("river of red stones", a translation of its OTL Siouan name).
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I almost missed the update! Fascinating stuff. I especially like how you take care to illustrate how technology and culture is transferred along the blossomin trade routes! I'm also looking forword to how the prolonged contact between Mesoamerica and the Andean cultures will transform them both.

On this note: Do you think that anything of the agricultural package transferred all the way from Fusania will have an impact on the Andean peoples? (And vice versa?)